Showing blog posts tagged with: being a family

Birthday celebrations

by Hilla Duka - View comments

jacob birthday morning

Yesterday we celebrated my clever, strong willed, highly opinionated and very charming son Jacob turning eight. As I constantly overestimate the time I have at hand compared to the time it will take me to do anything, I first went into town for a meeting, and a lunch date with two lovely friends from work. 

decorations for jacobs birthday party

When I finally got home I was exhausted, and still had to decorate and clean and make a cake (planning ahead aparently doesn't work for me), thankfully I had lots of help from Jonathan, but by the time the guests arrived I was knackered and lay panting on the sofa - charming...

baloons birthday party

Balloons for my lovely boys.

Jacob opening presents

Still, decorations and preparation matter little to birthday boys - presents and cake are way more important. Ever since Jonathan got a phone for his eighth birthday, Jacob's been impatiently awaiting his own eighth birthday, hoping for a phone of his very own. He was thrilled to unwrap his present and find an iPhone 4.

Aidan our cat watching over the birthday celebrations

One of our more special cats, Aidan (the one who thinks he's a dog and has no tail), helped with the wrapping paper. The rest of us are a bit unsure as to what he was helping with, but he was most happy to do it.

jacobs birthday cake

And then, presents had and dinner gulped down, came time for cake. Dark chocolate with strawberries had been ordered, so I didn't really have to get creative at all.

And then the party was over, the guests leaving and the kids climbing happily into their beds. And despite stressing out and feeling inadequate most of the afternoon, I sat down and looked at the mess around me, and felt so happy and grateful. Another birthday when we're all together. 


Shabbat bliss

by Hilla Duka - View comments

The week has gone by so fast, some time spent at the office, some spent with doctors, and some nights spent with a poorly Jacob. And then came Shabbat, and though Jacob was still coughing we packed ourselves in our little car and headed over to my dad and his wife to be treated to Shabbat dinner!

kids playing with shiba

The kids were thrilled, as that meant getting to see the new family member, Ashi the dog. Or maybe not so new, my dad bought him a few weeks after we found out about the cancer. I figure even Freud and Jung would agree on that one. Anyway, Ashi - a Shiba dog about six months old, is turning out to be a very sweet person, one of my cats has taken a special fancy to him, and tries to meow and communicate with him every time he comes over. And of course the kids love playing and cuddling with him. 

Jonathan making tacos

Jonathan was of course keen on helping out with dinner, making the ever so popular and historically correct Shabbat dish of Tacos. Please observe the heavy satire here, but I don't really know how to make a lot of Israeli dishes, apart from hummus and falafel, and by having tacos, at least we know the kids will eat without complaining. 

basil leaves

There really is no better food than that which has been prepared by someone else! I love how when you cook yourself, you're always using the same herbs and spices, preparing the same dish in the same way. Then when someone else makes you food, they do it differently, and you get all inspired as to how you could change things up.

jacob, jonathan and Ilir in the sofa after dinner

Then of course came the obligatory food coma - collapsing in the sofas and putting on a movie to make the kids sit still for a minute or two...

rear view mirror

And all of a sudden it was way past the kids bedtime, the evening over, and we headed back home again. 

cemetary by Karolinska Sjukhuset

On our way home we drove by the cemetery, which was enough to set me off, and with tears rolling down my cheeks and thoughts of death pounding in my head, I tucked the kids up in bed, sat down in the sofa with a glass of wine, thinking to numb the feeling of doom and gloom that clouded the end of the night with some mindless facebooking. Only to see the first post in my feed, announcing the death of one of the women in my breast cancer group. Tearing up all over again. 

 

When I say that death has joined our lives this year past, I mean that quite literally. 


Winter watching

by Hilla Duka - View comments

little island with hut - twinter walking

The snow didn't make it in time for christmas, but it showed up a few days later. And so we all bundled up in our thickest sweaters and heaviest boots and went winter walking.

winter landscape sweden

I think this might be the first year since I was little that I've been able to really love the winter. Before I've always felt cold = bad, but now I'm revelling in the white landscape, the look of snow on the branches, the frosty lake...

closeup–branches with snow

 

Jacob by the frozen lake

The lake being frosty, but not frozen through turned out to be a concept very hard for Jacob and Milo to grasp! They kept wanting to try to walk on it, not wanting to listen as we called words of warning...


The kids room part two

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Fullview

So I promised I would show the kids room once everything was ready, and I'm finally making good on my promise. As I started discussing in this post, for various reasons we'll continue to live in my small two bedroom flat in the nice area well suited for kids, rather than move to something bigger and further away, or get the house I was envisioning before I fell ill.

 

And in deciding to  stay, we needed to improve the room the boys share. They don't really mind sharing room, and I think in many ways it's good for them, but each needs his own space too, for his own things, his private hideaway. That's why we  planned and planned and came up with a new way of making the most of their room. The three story bunkbed of my dreams didn't pan out as the ceiling height is a mere 2,4 metres, but I came up with this alternative, which also provides a reading nook for when we put them to bed, or for when they want somewhere cosy to sit and read during the day. I say read, but they mainly use it for playing on their iphones.

cozy reading space

One of the walls in the reading nook consists of the back of two bookshelves, to make it prettier I’ve covered it with a fabric. The chair comes from Åhlens and the little table, that doubles as Milo’s storage space, comes from Kartell. Originally it functioned as my bedside table, but this way it fills a better function.

bunkbed for three with string shelf

All the boys have some sort of personal storage by their bed - Jacob got one of my old String shelves, and Jonathan got a shelf the length of his bed, though quite narrow so that he doesn’t bang his head on it at night. For now, the Kartell table will be Milos storage.

bunkbed for three with bookshelf

On the back of the reading nook are two IKEA shelves, soon to be brim full of kids books and toys they still want to play with. Mainly, they no longer play with toys, they play on the Xbox or the computer or the iphones/ ipads when they’re allowed, and then they read or they draw or paint. So much so, this christmas they got a crafts hamper (seen below their portraits above), filled with different material for their creative geniuses. They loved it, and I loved that I got to make good use of the hamper originally filled with goodness and sent by my lovely colleagues at the London office. Now it's filled with goodies once more, though this time not edible at all...

backpack storage

We really did end up using absolutely every bit of space in the room - behind the door the kids have hangers for their backpacks. They just about fit in the small space between the wall and the door. That's also the only place I would allow them to put this hiddeous Star Wars poster - this way, the only was it's seen is when they close the door. 

table and storage in kids room

On the other side of the room is two metres of shelf storage and a table for their computer and space to do homework. I honestly still cannot understand how we managed to fit all these functions in one 12mroom.

For this renovation, we really tried hard to be environmentally friendly and use what we had, buying only a minimum amount of new things, and then not buying plastic or easily breakable things. The only new things we got was Jonathans lamp, one of the bookshelf (we had one before), the armchair for reading, some supplies, wood and and the gray paint on the wall. It ended up costing us very little, apart from the time and effort it took to make, and the end result is such a drastic improvement on what they had before, I can’t help but be well pleased.


Sum up the year

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Paris

It’s not even Christmas yet, and already I see all these posts on different blogs summing up 2014 - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Though  mostly the good. Either I follow insanely happy, successful and beloved people, or we just tend to try to enhance the good and hide the bad.

 

I ended 2013 with a Facebook post saying “Goodbye 2013. 2014 - you’ve got big shoes to fill”. 2013 truly was a great year for me, in every way. I was suddenly making a career, something I hadn’t really planned on but found myself truly enjoying. I got to travel, meet amazing people, broaden my views. And at home, I finally felt as if everything started working out. For the first time since Jonathan was born, I started sleeping full nights again, and that did wonders for me. I felt the kids had grown past that baby phase, which was always so hard for me to cope with, and had now turned into these three amazing little people - my favourite people in the world. Though home life was still stressful at times, it was in 2013 that I stopped feeling as if I was constantly falling.

 

And then came 2014, which is as I should remember the year I’m trying to sum up now. It’s been a year of extreme opposites. A year of devastating news as well as love and happiness greater than I’ve known ever before. Looking back, to me it seems it all began to fall apart that night in Berlin, where after a work thing late at night on my way back to my hotel, I slipped on a patch of ice and dislocated my knee and tore a ligament. That was the end of January, and that was the end of my health and my strength. It took me a few months to get back on my feet (quite literally, I was hobbling along) only to realise I just never got really well again. And that, of course, was the start of finding out about the cancer.

 

Never in a million years, as I welcomed the new year with bubbles and kisses all round, did I think this year would bring me to that. But I guess that’s the case for all of us - we just don’t see how it could ever happen to us until it does. I’ll not try to put to words the feeling of finding out you’re dying, I just can’t. Most of all, I felt small, and helpless, and terribly, terribly sad for my childrens sake. Then I felt angry, angry at the loss they would face, all the things I would miss out on. And then I decided the doctors were wrong, I would prove them wrong, I would be the miracle. And these are still the feelings I go through, and probably always will. It’s like a silly waltz I do: One, two three, one, two, three, sad, angry, denial, sad, angry denial. Round I go. Hello, new life. Dizzying.


But, as much as I hate having cancer, and believe me I hate it with a vengeance I never knew before, looking back on 2014 also means seeing Ilir and the kids and our wedding, remembering the times I’ve spent with good friends and great wines, all that laughter. Yes, I’ve seen more of the inside of a hospital than I ever would have wanted, I’ve been in pain and I’ve watched my own body be slowly poisoned beyond repair or recognition, but I’ve loved, and I’ve laughed, and I made others laugh too, and I am still here. 2014 will always be the year I found out about the cancer, but more than that, it will be a year I have seen through, and for that I am grateful. And as I sum it up, I weigh it out, and there is just as much love and happiness as there is sadness and sorrow. Perhaps the only thing that matters is that it is a year I am happy to have had?


Burn brighter

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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This morning a young woman died. She was a mother and a wife, beloved by so many, and she had fought long and hard to keep her breast cancer at bay. As I read the update by her husband, big warm tears fell down my cheeks, this overwhelming sadness that this day had to come. I had never met Ewa, but she warmly welcomed me into the sad society of cancer patients when I was first diagnosed, gave advice and offered experience. I watched her appear on Swedish program Agenda, to ring up the debate on why different countries have different rules on which medicines to give. She spoke of her friend, who didn’t get the same medicine as she had, and who had now passed away. She spoke of how she called her friend one day, but her phone was answered by her husband, who told her that her friend had passed away during the night. And now it is her own husband who has to inform people that it is she who has passed away. I think about the fact that unless I become the extreme miracle, one day Ilir will have to post the last post for this site, to tell you all that I have died.

 

The unfairness of this illness overwhelms me at times. We are young mothers, juggling careers and kids and a love life and friends, and this horrid disease kills anyone, no matter how loved or important to others. Before their time, without having been given the chance to play out their part. And left behind are mourning partners, children too small to understand, or at least should be too small to be forced to understand, brothers and sisters who’ll battle this death for the rest of their lives, living on with survivors guilt, mothers and fathers who shouldn’t have to bury their daughters, friends left hollowed.

 

When I first found out I had cancer, my initial reaction was “Not me! This can’t be right, I have small children to take care of, to be there for!” I have sadly learned since then, that cancer doesn’t care. And no matter how I rage against it, I can’t change this. I can’t change it, but I can’t accept it either.

 

I spend so much time meditating these days, and it’s truly brought me closer to understanding the vastness of life, of mind. I think it’s extremely hard to discuss mental/ spiritual experiences - if the person you’re discussing it with hasn’t felt anything like it, it’s hard to communicate and really get across your experience, so for now I’ll leave that area untouched. At the same time, much of what I write here is for the benefit of my boys in order for them to one day get to know more of me, so one of these days I will have to try to write that down. For now, I’ll leave it with saying that my meditating experience has left me sound in my belief that it is not the person leaving this life that suffers, but those left in it. Today, my thoughts go to Ewas family, indeed to all the lives she touched, that will be hollowed by her absence.

 

It is my firm belief that one day, cancer will no longer be a life threatening disease. That one day, there will be effective treatments for it, but we are not there yet. Only by allowing greater funding for cancer research can we get there, and while we wait, people are dying. Please consider donating to cancer research to help speed up the process! Help us burn brighter, for longer.  


Building spaces

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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I’ve lived in this flat for longer than I’ve ever before lived in one house. In some ways I love it to bits, and in some ways… not so much. It’s a two bedroom flat, mainly planned for a couple with an extra room for guests or a small baby. As in one. One small baby. Definitely not three little tykes.

 

I switched rooms with the kids years ago, to give them the big bedroom, but thanks to a very bad layout of the room, even though it’s a decent size room, it’s been impossible to plan it for three kids. Or maybe it’s just that it’s really, really hard to fit three kids into one room. Still, I don’t buy into that whole idea that all kids must have their own room. I think everyone needs to have a space that is their own, but I remember how I loved to share rooms with my brother and was really upset when I had to move into a room of my own. And as adults we fall in love and move in and no one questions the idea that we should share bedrooms.

 

We’ve been looking at bigger flats and considered moving, but in order to stay in the same area, we would have to pay so much more money, it’s ridiculous. Basically we’d add one half income in living expenses, just to get one extra room, never mind two, and with me being ill and plans for the future being uncertain to say the least, it was just off the table. So, back to the drawing table it was. I knew there had to be some way to make it work, to give each child a space of their own, and still have some floor area left, and a place for them to do homework and draw and stuff. There just had to be some way to make it work.

I pride myself on being quite imaginative (amongst other things. I’m extremely good at priding myself in general), and able to think up clever solutions. Show time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. So I thought long and hard, and finally came up with this idea, which is basically like a bunk bed for three, but in two different directions. And then somehow (either I should have gone for a career in sales or he must really love me) I convinced Ilir to build it. I felt pathetically old fashioned gender wise here, but since I these days I’m ridiculously weak, it really did feel safer to let him handle the building bit.

 

 

The plan was almost too simple - take two of IKEA’s most popular tiny bunk beds, and then put one on top of the other. Basically, sawing a bit here and changing a bit there for a longer one - or so I thought. It took an entire day, and then some. But the end result is great. We still have some work planned for next weekend (I’m lying, we have enough on our my todo list to keep us occupied until the end of next year - by which point I will have a whole new todo list) - painting the whole thing (and the walls) and finding a small arm chair for the cozy corner and generally making a hell of a lot of hygge in there, but at least now I can see where it’s going, which feels great. A few steps closer to the goal - making sure that all the kids have their own space, whilst not breaking our bank account or moving to a cheaper neighbourhood.

bunk bed for three kids room ikea hacks
 
As you can see, still a long way to go before it's interior-decorating-magazine ready, but you get the general idea. One, two, three kids sleeping on top of each other. Floor space. There's a desk and stuff too, on the other side of the room. Very organised. I'll show it to you when it's all painted!