On our own

Solo parenting again this week while Michael is in the US and I have to say I think it’s getting easier. There are, admittedly, several moments every day that are ridiculously chaotic and I lose my calm, but still. They happen, they pass. Felix is constantly surprising me right now. He wants to do so many things, he wants to help. In my head I have a list in order of the things I need to do to get the two of them washed and in pyjamas and off to bed, and he comes to interrupt and ask to help. And because his ideas were not in my original plan, it’s so easy to say no when I need to say yes.

This evening I had Antonia in the bath when he came to ask me if he could put help me put the grocery shopping away. (The grocery shopping had been a story in itself – imagine two small children with a small trolley each, running wild.) After your bath I said, thinking to myself – argh but I wanted to put everything away fast, it’s going to be a pain. Cue tears. I just want to do it! I don’t want a bath! He wandered off back to the lounge room, very sorry for himself. (I can’t bathe them together as our ‘bath’ is a plastic tub which I place in the shower cubicle, and they don’t fit.)

And then I thought about it. And called him back, and asked him to watch Antonia while I untied the knots on the shopping bags. And I told him he could put everything that needs to go in the fridge away. And bless him, he did. And he took the shower gel into the bathroom and put that away too. He just asked for help with my conditioner because he couldn’t get it to stand up straight. He put nearly everything away all by himself and it makes such an incredible difference not to be sole agent of creating order.

On the weekend he even spontaneously tidied up a box of toys that his friend tipped out!

I asked him this evening if he was excited about going to our new house soon, and he said yes, I’m getting braver.

Dear Antonia is cuddly and snuggly and lovely and cheeky and utterly enthusiastic (especially about washing her hands, hugging Felix (‘Ge-gik’), wearing beads, putting on gumboots, going outside and anticipating ice cream ‘i-peem!’), but has a tendency to trip over her feet and burst into tears. This can be a little trying when I’m trying to get them out the door in the morning and I can’t find my hairbrush…

But really they are such good company. I think we need a quiet evening at home tomorrow as so far the week has been full of activity – swimming on Monday, dinner at a friend’s house yesterday, and grocery shopping this evening. As Felix keeps telling me, just four more sleeps.

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One of those Sunday mornings where everything goes right. We made an apple cake early in the morning and Felix insisted on peeling and coring the apples himself. Antonia helped me make the cake batter and put the apple pieces on. Then my dear friend came over with her two children, and the apple cake and cream went down a treat, and then somehow we ended up with play-doh and matchsticks out and the kids played happily for ages.

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Saturday was nice too – we played in the park for hours and hours, and had lunch in the cafe across the street. We kept bumping into people we knew. Felix had an icecream with his best friend while Antonia napped in her stroller, and when she woke up she was ready for action once again.

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Just for fun here’s Felix, just a little younger than Antonia is now, riding the same horse. (From this post from July 2012.)

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Spring

Feeling tired, but good-tired, after a weekend packed with friends and kids riding bikes. We even did some work in our yard this morning. We often lament the fact that we haven’t done outdoor work, so decided it was time to stop lamenting and just all go outside together and have a go. It was nice.

It’s not exactly warm yet but it is light well into the evening, and a lot more pleasant outside than it was last month.

The kids were absolutely gorgeous last night, climbing up onto the armchair together and spontaneously reading a book.

And they’re both loving their bikes. We got Antonia a balance bike at Easter in Germany and spent quite a lot of time waddling after her giving her little pushes and stopping her falling over. Very hard on our backs. But now she’s able to walk it along by herself. She doesn’t glide along yet but it’s a start! She insisted on ‘riding’ it nearly all the way to the park from the carpark at Michael’s work today. She wanted to ride it back, too, afterwards, and was very sad when I had to trap her in the stroller as we didn’t have time…

Where was I…

Sick, that’s right. A fever for sixteen days in a row. I recovered just in time for our week in Germany over Easter. Insert here a photo I wish I took: the car all packed, Felix and Antonia perched cheerfully in the front seats, looking for all the world like they were going to drive us to the ferry… A few days into our trip Felix came down with another nasty cold, resulting in very high fevers for a week and a half, and pretty much needing to sleep all the time. Antonia got it just in time for our return journey. She often vomits when she has a fever. Yep. Anyway… We were very relieved to arrive home on Easter Monday. We managed a few loads of washing, a lot of unpacking, and once the kids were asleep upstairs I collapsed on the sofa thinking – why do I feel so shivery… Cue another week of fever for me, with both kids also home sick. Yep. I’m finally feeling a little more human now and very much hoping that’s the end of fevers for a while. March was a write off.

Anyway, in the midst of all that, we BOUGHT A HOUSE! It’s beautiful. There’s lots of room for visitors, a lot of room for the kids to run outside, and it has a view of a fjord! We can’t quite believe it. We’ve been talking about looking for a bigger house for a while, but Michael kept saying we weren’t ready. A couple of weeks ago I started dragging the kids around to a few open inspections, just to get a feel for things. We’re not ready, said Michael. But then he looked on the website. What about this one, he said. It’s gorgeous, I said. We looked at it on the Friday before we left for Germany, and thought about it the entire time we were away. Our offer was accepted the day after we returned. I had to get my head around it a little because it’s a bit out of town (only a ten minute drive, but the house we’re in now is walking distance to town and to schools), and it will mean Felix will go to a different school to the one he would have started at if we’d stayed here. But in the end I thought why not. Let’s try it. So. There we are.

We take it over at the end of May. We’ve decided to change the kids to a different kindergarten, because their current one is out of town in the opposite direction to the house. This made me so sad. I feel awful about moving Felix away from his friends given that he only has one year left before school starts. But the new kindergarten is brand new and looks really nice, and he’ll get the chance to make new friends that he might be going to school with, so we think it will work out fine, and will simplify our lives considerably.

We’re excited. We went for a drive and an explore around our new neighbourhood today, and had a picnic by the fjord. We’re hoping that living out in the countryside will be the inspiration we need to start making more of all the fantastic hiking and exploring opportunities around here. It will be a busy couple of months as I have two conferences coming up in May and June, and Michael has a US trip at the end of April and a big conference for work the week after my conference in May, but we will make it. My Mum’s coming over in June and she won’t have to camp in the lounge room as we will have a whole spare room for her!

I haven’t been taking a lot of photos, but there are a couple lurking on the camera that I may find soon, but right now I just wanted to make sure I wrote something. I’ve missed you guys, all three of you. The kids have been adorable as always and I’ll try to write more about them soon. Felix has his first ever swimming lesson tomorrow evening, so we’ll see how that goes. But now, bedtime.

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We took these photos just before bath time tonight when I realised I didn’t have any photos from the week. Come into the hallway where the best light is, said Michael, after I snapped a blurry one of Felix at the dining room table. Both photos feature Michael’s new toy, lego TARDIS. Both children are entranced. Antonia is not really allowed to play with it, but I noticed she was being very quiet and when I went to check on her she was sitting up to the table, making the little lego Dr Who figures climb up and down the TARDIS stairs.

This weekend was considerably better than last weekend, but I am STILL SICK with sinus pain, headache, a nasty sore throat, and a low grade fever. I am somewhat fed up and steeling myself to get some writing done this week despite feeling groggy. I managed to take the kids swimming on Saturday morning which they enjoyed. Antonia was happy to wear her floaties around her arms (like Felix does) but refused to go in her ring. She did manage to swim around for a little while on her own with the floaties on, even twisting in a circle, before getting a mouthful of water and needing assistance. After her nap we went to the local shopping centre and had a coffee, bought some photo frames and a few groceries. Felix found the shopping cart shaped like a car and was gracious enough to let Antonia sit in it, when I warned him that was not negotiable. The only problem was trying to get her out of it, later.

Today some friends came over in the afternoon, and my achievement for the day was this black forest inspired chocolate sponge cake, with cream, cherries, and cream mixed with chocolate. I used this recipe for the sponge and it was delicious.

Now it’s nine o’clock and I’m going to bed, to see if an early night can help me kick this thing. Good night!

 

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Not a week I’m in a hurry to repeat, coloured by upsetting news from far away, ferocious colds and slushy snow. We’ve all had colds but Antonia and I have been the worst hit. Managed to take the kids out to the cafe yesterday which was the highlight of Felix’s day. He drew two Thomas the tank engines, complete with smiley faces and yellow number 1s, and a more abstract looking drawing which he said represented a ladder falling apart. I didn’t get time to aim for better photos as they both wanted to commandeer the camera. Felix took the one below of me drawing a ‘wow wow’ for Antonia. Looking at the photos on the camera, Antonia pointed out ‘Tonya’ and ‘Bebix’ for the first time. I was so proud.

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Felix: making echoes.

Antonia: very pleased with our matching hats, as we wander around the roof of the Opera house in Oslo. It’s very cool and looks a bit like an iceberg.

I took these photos on Tuesday, when we arrived back in Oslo from a mini-cruise to Copenhagen. Our friends invited us to come with them, and it was so much fun! We slept on the ferry on Sunday and Monday nights, and had a day in Copenhagen on Monday. Copenhagen was lovely. I think my family was most enamoured with the lego shop. Michael got a Dr Who Tardis set, Felix got a Jurassic World dinosaur, and Antonia got a duplo whale and an igloo. These were cute enough to get past my no-more-duplo-in-the-house-we-have-nowhere-to-put-it rule.

This week the sun has come back and today we went to the forest with some friends. I had promised Felix he could ride his new bike. When we got there I discovered the path was still basically pack ice with a light sprinkling of snow on top. Up and down two kilometres of hills. Too late to say no. Off he went. I am proud and relieved to say he was absolutely fine and only fell over three times and did not complain or break any limbs. I didn’t get any photos because I was trying not to slide down said hills while pushing Antonia in the stroller. It was quite invigorating but never again.

Here are some bonus photos of the two of them hitting the musical dance floor in the science museum in Copenhagen.

Bedtime

Putting Antonia to bed tonight, she sang for an hour. Normally I feed her for ten to fifteen minutes, and she drops off. Tonight I fed her for half an hour, and she wasn’t showing any signs of stopping, so I stopped. And she sang. She sang a bye bye song, a Mamma song, a Da(dd)y song, a Yaya song, a lalalala song, and then she went back to the beginning, intermittently pausing to kiss my cheek, or pat some rhythms on her knees, or nibble my fingers, or press her cheek into mine. I wonder how long she could have continued. After an hour I said, Antonia, that’s enough, it’s sleepy time. And she tried to be quiet but the song kept coming so eventually I said, I’m going to put you in your bed and go downstairs. She seemed ok about it until I put her in there (I think she really doesn’t like the corner we’ve wedged the cot into – I’m hoping I might be able to get her to sleep there one day if we move it). Then she screamed, so I picked her up immediately. ‘Meh!’ she demanded. But I didn’t feel like it just then, so I said the meh is gone now, you drank it all up, it will come back later. And I lay next to her and sang her a song, and after ten minutes she finally fell asleep. I remembered just how exhausting it had been to get her to sleep when she was a baby. But it was a very nice song.

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Spiderman and the snow princess. Getting ready for Carnival at barnehage. Sorry for the dreadful quality of the photos but it’s all I can manage at the moment. Felix adores his spiderman costume and Antonia even attempted a couple of twirls in her dress. It was her first day back at barnehage after nearly a week home with a fever.

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Felix: so thrilled to be five.

Antonia: in her party dress. It was so hard to get a photo as she wouldn’t say still!

I’m very late adding these photos. We were so tired after Felix’s party last weekend, but it was pretty special. I made the cake this year (with help from the two of them). Felix had been planning a ‘Connor’ cake (friend of Thomas the Tank Engine) for a whole year.

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It rained all weekend. Here is Felix drawing in the cafe, and Antonia in her play kitchen wearing her floaty ring. As you do. We went to the pool yesterday and they loved it. I think we’ll start doing that more.

We also made pumpkin scones this weekend out of the kids cookbook Felix got for Christmas. They were yum and really fun to make. Antonia now insists on getting in on the act so they both perched on a kitchen chair and stirred with a wooden spoon each. My favourite mental image is Antonia’s soft little paw enthusiastically patting the dough.

Weeknights II

The scene, 5pm: Felix happily copying numbers printed on a box, while I read a book to Antonia. You guys look happy, says Michael. I’m going upstairs for ten minutes.
Felix: Can I Watch?
Me: No.
Felix: But why? I haven’t Watched all day! I need to Watch!
Me: But I like to hang out with you and do things. It’s boring otherwise.
Felix: Can I paint my box?
Me (deep breath): ok.
I go to hunt for paints. I cut up plastic bags to put under the box so he won’t get paint all over the table. I find him a different top so he won’t ruin his nice white one. I find the paints. I find the paintbrushes. Antonia finds my old sunglasses and puts them on. Then she starts crying cos they fall off her nose.
Me: I’ll find you some other sunglasses, Antonia.
Felix: Not mine!!
He follows to make sure I don’t give his sunglasses to Antonia. I find Michael’s old sunglasses. She puts them on. She cries because they fall off her nose. I find a paper plate for Felix’s paint.
Me: What colour do you want?
Felix: What? (Antonia cries and cries.)
Me: What colour?
Felix: White. No. Blue.
I squirt out the blue paint and pick up Antonia, still screeching. He does one lack-luster brush of the box.
Felix: I don’t really want to paint.
Me: ???
I put his paper plate in the bin. I wash out the paintbrush.
Felix collapses on the sofa in tears.
Now Antonia wants to paint.

Weeknights

We’ve had a couple of nice evenings this week. Nothing spectacular, but nice all the same. It’s dark by 5 o’clock. Felix has found a bit of a groove cutting things up and colouring them in. He showed me how his friend taught him to draw a snake. Last night we got the craft box out and he made a helicopter and a boat out of egg cartons and paddle-pop sticks. All the while Antonia bumbled around on the floor reading herself books and building towers. Felix asked when he could learn to knit, so I made him a tomboy knitting thing out of a toilet roll. Tonight the glue was dry so I taught him how to make the stitches, and he could do it! I’m so proud of him. He’s pretty pleased with the grey and blue snake he produced.

I’d been worried about how much screen time he was having, but for some reason it wasn’t difficult to reduce it this week, and it appears to have paid dividends. Probably he’s just in a good mood but I’ll take it!

I’ve been reading up on eco-criticism and writing a conference paper on my latest literary crush – Kathleen Jamie. I have so many ideas, though writing is, most of the time, a slow slow thing. But honestly, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Sightlines.

Antonia has settled again at the barnehage this week which is an enormous relief. They told me she’s really getting into the music.

Domestic life between the adults in the house has been pretty harmonious too. There’s lots of good stuff coming together at M’s work.

Felix is learning about planets and solar systems in the barnehage so there are lots of discussions about how the moon relates to the earth, and which planets we could travel to, and how long would it take to get to the sun, and are rockets really clean, and what button do you need to press, and what about the other solar systems. Antonia is enchanted with the moon. ‘Ball!’ she declares enthusiastically whenever she sees it.

 

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Not the best quality images, but evidence that I dragged them outside this afternoon to muck around in the remaining snow… We had a week and a half hovering around -15 and it was too cold to be outside much but ah so beautiful. The whole world was frosted white and the sky was clear most days apart from little gauzy wisps of cloud, varying shades of pink and gold and pearly blue. Now the world is grey and soggy. But we had a nice weekend all the same.

I think my snowman building skills need work though. In the photo below Felix is about to start wailing because Antonia is tipping the snowman’s head off – which he had planned to do!

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And my dear, dear, puffball Antonia is about the sweetest thing in the world right now.

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Arriving

Looking out of the plane window as we landed in Oslo, Felix said – ‘that’s not snow, that’s just salt from the sea.’ And on the train down to Halden, Antonia said cheerfully her favourite phrase: ‘hot daaay!’ ‘No,’ said Felix, ‘cold day!’ ‘Hot daaaay’, said Antonia. They giggled and giggled.

It is indeed cold. We went from 40 degrees in Adelaide to -13 here. Arriving home to a chilly house and having to dig the car out of the snow before we could drive to the shop to get milk (blessedly, the engine started first time) is not without its challenges. But the snow and the gentle sun are very pretty, in a somber sort of way. This morning as I dropped the kids at barnehage I looked over at the slow-motion sunrise and saw the most remarkable thing. The sun was not yet visible behind the white forest and fields, but what I can only describe as an orange spear of light, like a laser beam, was thrusting up from the snowy horizon into the clouds.

17 months

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Antonia has spent the entirety of her seventeenth month in Australia. She’s walking faster since we arrived and now has so many words:

Mama, Da-ee (used to be Dad-dee, but she’s condensed it), Mam-ma (grandma), Poppa, Nanna, ba (ball), ba (bath) train, block, car, bubble, book, ear, eye, no (nose), toes, cup, no and nei, bleier (nappy in Norwgian), nana (banana), tato (potato), ba bye (bye bye), bear, oosh (shoe), door, up, hot, hat, more, cracker, baby, juice, shut, tea, bus, beads, sausage

Little two word phrases: hot day (she drawls, and grins), hot chip, hot tea, bye bye Nanna, more book, my Da-ee

And her favourite invented word: alloo (water)

(and meh, of course, for breastmilk)

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She has absolutely adored being here and seeing her grandparents every day. Swings are one of her favourite things – persuading her to get down from one is usually quite a noisy affair. She’s very adept at the little plastic bike Felix used to ride around on. She is cuddly and determined and hilarious. She decides who gets a kiss and who is allowed to kiss her. She loves hats. ‘at! at!’ she says. She is quite entranced with little lego men and loves to put helmets (hats) on them. She can build really high wooden block towers (eight blocks high) and stick duplo together. She loves the sea. On New Years Eve she couldn’t get enough of whirling around in the waves – it was quite hard to keep hold of her. She especially loves my Mum and gives her the best snuggles. She is still quite partial to a mouthful of sand.

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She loves animals, especially dogs.  ‘Wuff wuff!’, she declares excitedly, whenever she sees one, and prepares to go and pat it. At Christmas time we stayed with my cousin and his family, and they had their dog Churros with them, so ‘Churros’ became the fifth name Antonia learnt to say. She adored meeting some kangaroos, which she thought were ‘wuff wuff’s too. She frequently demands that I draw dogs, which is new for me as I tend to draw cats for children, but it’s kind of fun.

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She likes to be upside down.

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She likes to be close to me.

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She thinks Felix is the funniest person in the world and she tries to cheer him up with kisses or gifts of water bottles when he is upset. (He takes good care of her too.) They egg each other on mercilessly, resulting in some very noisy car rides. She is brave and bold and affectionate and insistent and we think she is phenomenal. We love her so.

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Felix: haircut!!! His first at a hairdresser. A big deal. He chose the style himself, to match Michael. He’s very particular about applying wax to make it stick up… I’m a little sad but think he looks gorgeous and it’s easier to kiss his cheeks now.

Antonia: my happy, happy, bundle of squish. She’s just loving it here.

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This week has been quite a blur, preparing to leave for Australia, looking after the kids on my own, and a lot of workshops on at work. Plus my students’ exams. Plus, you know, three days of fever from the littlest. But my eye is on the prize, now, we are nearly there.

I took these last weekend. I love how Felix looks still like a little boy in this shot, sometimes he seems so big to me I have to remind myself he is small. And Antonia was cooking up a storm.

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November Lights

November weariness hit a couple of weeks early for me this year, and by the time November started I felt that although I was tired and had a lot to do at least I was picking up speed and the end was in sight. It was such a relief to get to the end of teaching a week ago. I love teaching, but the last few weeks felt harried and scrappy, not helped by kids who kept getting sick when Michael was away.

Only one week and a couple of days left till I leave for Australia. I have my fingers crossed that the little ones stay healthy – it’s just been one thing after another. I was looking forward to a quiet week at work finalising some writing projects, sketching out some new ones and putting my exams together, but it’s Wedensday and I’ve only managed one half day so far (fevers and vomiting all round, although I’ve stayed well, touch wood). There has been a range of domestic disasters too. Our dryer broke, and then I broke it more, trying to fix it. Our toaster gave up the ghost spectacularly, flooding the kitchen with smoke and making our house smell like a campfire for a week. A tray in our fridge snapped in half, I don’t know when.

Still. There’s washing drying on the clothes horse. Another load on. We had our tyres changed over to winter tyres today, in the nick of time. The house right now is fairly tidy, the way it only ever is at 10 at night. And I thought I would sneak a little time to write, just for me. And it makes me happy.

Felix and I made a pepperkakehus (gingerbread house) on the weekend. The pepperkaker pieces came in a box, and it was so. much. fun. I’ve always wanted to do one! I did the icing and Felix arranged the sweets. Antonia watched from her high chair. I’m doing Christmas things a little early with them because it’s nice to do them here, in our own house, in a Norwegian winter. The little house looks awesome. I put the christmas tree Felix insisted on buying last year next to it, and decorated all of it with some little snowflake lights. Photo soon.

This evening we made gingerbread shapes (the dough comes in a box, how clever is that) and started decorating them. The boy shares my love of sweet and sparkly things. Antonia even insisted on joining in and managed to stick some sweets onto a gingerbread man. Felix chose the shapes we made very deliberately. Four gingerbread people, to be our family. Some trees. Some bells. No horses. But I like the horse! I said. ‘Ok, but you have to eat it.’ And he thought the angel was a transformer. After his bath, Felix chose a tree to eat. ‘Isn’t it pretty!’ he said. ‘I’m going to save the transformer for tomorrow. I’m getting into transformers.’

When I picked Felix up from the barnehage this afternoon, it was dark and misty. Often the children go back inside at this point, but his class was still out. I could barely see a thing. ‘Felix!’ I called. ‘Over there’, said his carer. A boy on a tricycle wearing a beloved brand new bright blue and dark blue snow suit with little zips careered towards me through the mist. ‘Just one more round!’ he said, and pedalled off furiously to do a lap of the barnehage. I stood in the cloudy dark, holding Antonia, getting cold. ‘Felix!’ I called again. Surely he would be back by now. And then I looked up and he came round the corner triumphantly, riding quite fast, backwards! Like one of his favourite characters from the movie Cars. ‘Wow, Felix, backwards driving!‘ I couldn’t see his face through the mist but I knew his grin would be as big as mine.

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Felix hanging out with one of his best buddies and one of mine at the fortress playground on Sunday afternoon.

Antonia wobbling towards me.

I didn’t get a photo of the two of them painting together on Tuesday morning (Felix was home with a fever) but it was very sweet. Felix wanted to paint and as soon as I got the paint and brushes out Antonia was pointing at them and tugging her highchair – no chance of her getting left out of the action!

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

November garden (45/52)

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Michael is away again this weekend. We went into town yesterday and had some friends over for dinner in the evening. Today the sun was shining but Felix didn’t feel like going anywhere. It was actually really nice not to hop in the car all day. We played lego, changed all the bed sheets, did a craft kit while Antonia had her nap, went outside for a bit in the afternoon, and baked scones at Felix’s insistence after our scrambled eggs for dinner. Work is getting really busy at the moment, and I’ve noticed a certain end of semester fatigue setting in, but after this weekend I feel ready to power through the final through weeks to exams.

Yesterday, Felix mopped the floor for me. The mop was *cough* quite a novelty. Today Antonia let me brush her teeth without screaming the house down. This was quite a novelty, too. I sang a teeth brushing song instead. At the end, I said ‘well done Antonia, high five!’, hoping to distract her from her tiny bit of protest at the end. She beamed, took the tooth brush out of my hand, and gave me a high five. I’ve never done this before – they must do it at barnehage. Felix hopped out of his bath without complaining and they spent the next five minutes high-fiving each other and giggling their heads off, before Antonia insisted on handing out the baby pine cones that Felix and I had collected. It totally made up for Felix’s mini tantrum earlier when he decided that he did want to go out after all once it was too late.

Love. Love. Love.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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Drawing

Felix drew a picture of Mog tonight. Mog, from the book. We had been reading Mog the Forgetful Cat. I read it all the way through, and then Felix wanted it again, but Antonia insisted we read Mog in the Garden instead, which is a more appropriate book for one year olds, though a little boring for four year olds. So I promised I would read Mog the Forgetful Cat again afterwards. But Antonia squeaked and squeaked. So I said I would put Antonia in the bath and Felix could sit on my lap while I watched her and I could read it then. But of course then I had to sing nursery rhymes, so it took quite a while to get through Mog the Forgetful Cat for the second time. As soon as I did, though, Felix scampered off to the table where I’d left the paper and textas for him, and he drew Mog.

Felix’s Mog has ears but no eyes. He went back afterwards and gave her legs. Mog is coloured in, carefully, all in grey. And I do not know the word for this feeling.

Pride, I guess. But that doesn’t seem to capture the quiet wondering awe I feel.

It’s only this year that Felix has started drawing things. In Australia he drew a ‘recycling factory’ – a blob with smaller blobs inside it for windows. But even after that, he really resisted any attempts we made to encourage him to draw things. He got so frustrated that he couldn’t match the picture in his head. ‘I know how you feel’, Michael told him, ‘I was never good at drawing. My Mum did my drawing homework.’ He tells the story with some bitterness.

For a while I encouraged Felix to fill up the whole page with scribbles, as I read somewhere that’s what they recommend at Montessori kindergartens – it makes the scribbles look better and the children are proud of them. He liked this suggestion and assiduously followed my advice.

And now he has started to draw. A few weeks ago he drew a fire engine in a few seconds flat – a large rectangle with wheels, coloured in red. And a while before that, he drew me a house, complete with bookshelves and chairs. I have it in my office. And now he has drawn Mog. A big, bold, lovely grey Mog. And I see his careful concentration and his idea and his shape on the page and all his little decisions and how brave you need to be to draw a Mog when you have never drawn a Mog before. And I do not know the word for this feeling.

Happy Halloween!

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I didn’t get many photos but we had such a lovely day. Felix wore his spiderman costume all day (even to the shops this morning), and went out trick or treating for the first time tonight. Unsurprisingly, he thought it was The Best Thing Ever. This was the first time he’s a agreed to wear a costume since he was a very cute pumpkin at eight months old. Antonia wore her costume to barnehage yesterday but was only interested in the hat today. Had a lovely little party this evening with home made pizza (I made the base, my friends did the toppings), swirly coloured meringues, incredible Halloween chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow cream cheese frosting (who knew?), and various other goodies, and the kids had a ball covering the floor with train tracks, tearing round the house waving plastic weapons at each other, and collapsing cheerfully onto the floor for little breaks. But Felix says the day after Halloween is even more special because Daddy comes home. halloween3

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Felix: concentrating.

Antonia: grinning, clambering over me. (I actually have a series of photos of that smile.)

Yesterday was a lot quieter than planned as we had to cancel hanging out with Felix’s best friend as Antonia was sick. Felix was sad. But he played with his sister, all the same. I love these two.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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Felix: swinging high.

Antonia: under the weather and over-tired, at last submits to being strapped into the stroller. Felix took this. Michael has taken to calling her Beethoven, because of the curls. ‘What’s Beethoven’, asks Felix. It has led to some sweet moments of the two of them sitting on his lap, watching a performance of Ode to Joy on youtube.

It’s almost exactly a year since I took these photos in the old town in Fredrikstad. I thought to myself – I’ll go back and take another one of the pair of them on that sofa in that cafe. We met up with a good friend and her two year old and went to the train museum, but our favourite cafe was completely packed, so no sofa photo. Antonia has been in poor shape, but I enjoyed the misty autumn afternoon anyway. The kids were tired after half an hour in the playground, so no time for landscape photos either, but that little town is so pretty this time of year, it’s good for the soul.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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I almost didn’t bother with a post this week, because I already had two portraits I love in this post from Wednesday. But then Michael snapped this sweet one of Antonia wearing a box. On Friday we went for a walk in the forest with some friends and ended up an an awesome playground. Felix was in heaven. We went there with his best friend and two other boys their age, and they did not stop racing about together for nearly three hours. Felix was so enraptured with the place he begged us to take him back there on Sunday, so we did.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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And here are a couple of the four boys all together. I love how they show how energetic and connected they all are, tearing about in their own little world.

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Felix eye view

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Felix commandeered the camera while we were getting the house ready to eat plum cake with our friends this morning. The photos are exactly as he took them – I haven’t altered them at all. I think they are rather charming – screaming toddler and all. (She will not tolerate the vacuum cleaner.) You don’t normally get photos of this stuff. The plum cake was delicious – my first attempt at a german style cake, made with plums from my colleague’s garden.

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Thirteen months

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Darling Antonia, you will be fourteen months before I know it, but I just want to say, I am enjoying my little one and a bit year old so very much.

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You are affectionate, energetic, funny, and always ready to explore. You love to go outside, and will point at the window and say ‘ooooh!’, walk up to the door and slap your hand on it, or find your shoes and sit down and try to put them on, begging me to help. You’re quite good at walking on your own now, but still prefer a helping hand, and go much faster if we’re trailing along beside you.

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You still love books. We read you many books, every day. Your favourite thing is to read a few pages with me and then a few pages with Michael. A familiar sight is you sidling round the kitchen door, ‘Brown Bear’ in your hands. ‘Eh, eh?’ you say. You adore songs, too. They other night I sang you ‘star light, star bright’, just before I put you to bed, and your eyes went all sparkly, you smiled a secret smile, and you started opening and shutting your hands to be a twinkling star. They must have been singing ‘twinkle twinkle’ in barnehage with you, so we have been doing it together now, and you just adore it, and can do most of the actions already. You make your twinkling hands when you see a picture of a star, too.

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You adore necklaces. I often see you with my little camera hanging from your neck, or our baby monitor, or, pretty much anything you can find.

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You are a lot happier in barnehage now but it was good to give you a few days off this week to recover from various ailments and just hang out a bit. You have twelve teeth now, as all four molars have cut through. The photos in this post contain almost all my favourite clothes for you right now – the green and purple tunics that my Mum knitted for you, your leggings with woodland creatures on, and your colourful Norwegian cardigan. You wear these in rotation with your grey overalls – will have to make sure I get a picture of them soon, too.

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You’re not keen on fruit, porridge, or bread but you love vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, peas, zucchini, mushrooms (you adore mushrooms!), potatoes, and, more recently, carrots and sweetcorn. So far you haven’t warmed to sweet potato at all. You like fish, and your favourite food is dairy – plain yoghurt, cow’s milk, cream, cheese. At home I only give you cow’s milk if you see Felix having some and demand it. You still drink plenty of breastmilk, which you call ‘merh’, especially at night. Your least favourite thing (to put it mildly) is having your teeth brushed, but you forgive me afterwards every time.

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You’ve just started trying out a few more words – your latest is ‘toe!’, whilst holding your toes in glee. You say ‘look’, and a version of ‘hello’, and almost mama and dada – you definitely connect us with those sounds, but don’t quite use them in conversation yet. You understand an awful lot – if I mention trampolines, for example, you say ‘wow-wow-wow’, and expect to be taken outside to bounce immediately. This morning you were quite clingy and demanding an endless feed, and eventually I explained – ‘you’re not going to barnehage today, you’re staying with me all day, you can go and play now’, and you did.

You must be puzzling out so much language right now, as you hear 95% Norwegian in barnehage, English from Felix and me, and German from Michael. This evening we were looking at stars in your bedtime book, and you were so excited when I said the Norwegian word for star, stjerne. Ah, it is sweet that you like stars already, my Antonia Elinor Celeste.

You love to wave and beam at people, and you’re so pleased to see us every morning. Dear, soft, strong, cuddly-koala Antonia, we love you so.

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The last day of September

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It’s høstferie this week, which is basically the autumn school holidays, just one week. There’s no teaching at university either. I had planned to use this time to get ahead on class preparation and rewrite an article, but Antonia has been sick (not dreadfully sick, though but they kept sending her home from barnehage). I couldn’t send her today so I decided to keep Felix home as well. We’ve all been hit by a cold this week, actually, so it is good to have a little pause.

We walked to our favourite cafe in the harbour, and Felix devoured his favourite custard bun. The ritual of the custard bun began when he was barely one, and he hasn’t tired of it yet.

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Antonia doesn’t like buns but she was happy enough drinking the foam from my latte and playing with a fireman’s helmet. They have a few boxes of toys, a play kitchen and a play table, enough to keep the little ones occupied for a while.

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They both pottered around with the toys quite happily for a bit. These are some of my very favourite moments – the sun slanting through the cafe, contented children, mine, a breath, a pause…

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Then we wandered around the harbour before meeting up with friends in the afternoon.

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The clouds and sun were all silky in the water.

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Antonia: walking with her brother. She got so many comments that day on her curls, her shoes, her woollen dress.

Felix: sunglasses and ghostbusters, what can I say. He would only acquiesce to being in the photos because I promised that he could take some himself, afterwards.

I took these at an autumn market in the gardens of a local manor house on Saturday. I only remembered about photos when it was almost time to leave. We’ll have to go back one day and take some more. It was so gorgeous. The light, the trees. The harbour glittering in the background. This time of year is just to very beautiful. It’s getting dark earlier each day and even sunny days have a brisk edge to them, but we have been ridiculously lucky recently when it comes to sunshine. I love the misty mornings too, and Felix has been commenting on the pink, pink clouds on the way to barnehage in the mornings. It is so lovely and so fleeting. One can almost – almost – forget about November.

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And these are Felix’s photos.

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This last one is blurry but I love it anyway – the light reminds me of an impressionist painting, and Antonia is so happy waving her oak branch.

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Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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Felix: thinking about something, sporting his new cap from the fire station. Autumn is a good time for kids’ activities around here – yesterday there was the annual Høstmarked in town, complete with baby chicks, sheep, calves, plastic tractors for the kids to ride around a make-shift race course (they both had a turn – Felix cycled his tractor himself but I pushed Antonia). The fire station was open too and Felix got to practice with a fire hose and picked up his cap. On top of all that there was a fun fair as well.

Antonia: loving being left to her own devices with her yoghurt.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015. I’m so pleased to have the good camera back in action again.

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Mothering. Friends.

I’ve been on my own with the kids for a little over a week – Michael gets back tomorrow. It’s gone fine, really, though I’m relieved it’s the weekend now and the whole pack lunch-boxes and get the kids to barnehage through the rain in time to get to work and teach thing is over for a while. It’s a bit of a drive out to barnehage and so much nicer when we can take it in turns. I was so tired by Thursday. Restoring the house to order every evening is somewhat gruelling, but I have done it religiously, as not doing it is so much worse. It’s so lovely coming down to a calm clean house every morning, even if it doesn’t stay that way long. It took a bit longer than usual this evening as I had invited a friend over for dinner. Adult conversation is snatched at the expense of toys spreading everywhere…

I’m so very grateful for my girlfriends. These are the friends of my small-children years, and these friendships are so different from that other period of intense friendships, university. Then, time was so stretchy – you could stay up all night, or decide to go camping at the drop of a hat, or talk for three hours in a coffee shop. Now we smile at each other in the playground, or hug briefly at the funfair, or juggle four small people between us as we drink a cup of coffee, or have early dinners at each other’s houses before bath time. It’s easiest to spend time together if our kids get on. And it’s something else we need from each other. When I was twenty, we were seeking the meaning of ourselves and everything, the future was empty blue and promising, we craved intimacy and enlightenment. Now it is good to have friends to share the very particular griefs of motherhood along with the obsessive joys and relentless work, none of which would have made much sense to me when I was twenty. Now I want… someone else with their feet on the ground, as mine are firmly these days. Someone who can meet my eyes through the swirl of activity and say ‘I see you, hang in there, I’m here too’.

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Felix: my dear beautiful talking thinking boy. We went to a children’s festival in Fredrikstad with some friends today. It’s a 50 minute drive. My boy hardly drew breath the entire way, telling me about the robot he would invent to protect himself if there was a crocodile in his barnehage. And how very strong the robot would be, and how he could throw houses and even signs up to the moon, and how he would give the bad guys to the police but if they were really really bad guys he would step on them and just squash them. He asked me if I would be frightened of the robot and I said yes. ‘But you wouldn’t need to be, Mummy, he wouldn’t do anything to you. You’re not a bad guy. We’re not bad guys at all.’

Antonia: walking. Walking! Just a few steps at a time but more every day. And her soft soft cheeks and big cuddles. On Monday at work I ache for them.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015.

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We had a truly gorgeous weekend, but I have been negligent with photos. The only one I have in which Felix makes an appearance is the top one, where he’s scrambling up to the trampoline in the background. It rained on Saturday but on Sunday morning the sun blazed despite a cold wind. The littlest one is just so happy in the sandpit.

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Ten past eight on Wednesday night, mist outside, the candle on the table from dinner still burning. Sleeping children upstairs. In a moment I will finish tidying the kitchen (Michael’s done most of it), have a shower, and read the end of the novel I am teaching tomorrow, making notes as I go. Any and all of that may be interrupted by dear Antonia, but I have already settled her once this evening, so she might sleep for a while. Antonia has been doing better at barnehage this week but she was so tired this evening I wish I had picked her up just a little earlier. Next time.

Our day started at 4 this morning when she wouldn’t go back to sleep. Thankfully we both squeezed in an hour’s nap between 6 and 7 before we had to leave.

My parents left on Monday and it was sad. A full day teaching sonnets on Tuesday cheered me up, and we are doing ok. I had a swim at lunchtime with a friend (I have a pool at work! And one of my best friends works in the exams office and can come swimming with me!), and now my shoulders are pleasantly sore. Oh, the laundry. I forgot about the laundry. Maybe I’ll fold a load of washing before I get to the novel… Maybe not.

Things Fall Apart. It is a quick read and powerful and I’ll never forget how much it moved me when I encountered it as one of the first texts I studied at Adelaide University. This time as I re-read it it touched me differently. As a mother of two children, the description of the loving sibling relationship between Nwoye and the doomed Ikemefuna just about undid me. I actually had to rush out of my office for a breath of different air.

This is my fourth week back at work and I am just about used to it. I’m teaching two literature classes and it’s busy but manageable. It could unravel fast if (when) the kids get sick. I’m sure I will stumble on through.

As I walked back to my car this afternoon it struck me – this is my job now, mine. And it was a nice nice thought.

Antonia took a couple of unassisted steps yesterday – she hardly noticed – she just wanted to get to the door to go outside. It was raining, so I didn’t open it. This evening I acquiesced and we had a little walk together up our driveway and onto the quiet road. She held my hands and stepped and stepped, occasionally getting down on hands and knees, drenching her jeans in the process, to investigate stones or weeds. She was just so excited when we encountered people walking by. ‘Ah! Ah!’ she called to make them look at her, and then she beamed. ‘So flink du er å gå!’ They all said.

I put her to bed a little early then made some promised custard for Felix which we ate together before we cleaned his teeth, and as he chatted away I thought – how lovely he is. How lucky am I.

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Felix: a moment of calm between jumping, balancing, climbing, splashing.

Antonia: on the go as ever!

The sun has not stopped shining for the past two weeks and it has been so lovely. Every evening we’ve been out in the garden, capering about on the trampoline and rolling around in the baby tent (the little ones, at any rate). Today was my parents’ last day before they fly back to Australia, so we had a picnic in the sunshine and then they put up some blinds for me in my bedroom – a job that’s been waiting around for months. Yesterday Dad put up a gate at the bottom of our stairs which means Antonia now has freedom to crawl around the hallway and play with our shoes. Mum was with us all of last week while Dad visited some of his old haunts in Lancashire. It was so excellent to have her around – she picked up the kids from barnehage, giving Antonia half days which I’m sure were much appreciated, cooked, and sorted stuff out for us, like our sandpit and the cupboard under the stairs. It’s very sad to say goodbye but I feel so lucky to have them and to see so much of them. We’re already planning to visit in December, so it’s not goodbye for long.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015.

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Had the most gorgeous day in Fredrikstad with Mum and the kids last Sunday. We stopped at some bronze-age stone circles on the way – we’d driven past the sign so many times it was great to finally have a look. Both kids decided stones are for climbing. Felix discovered some blueberries in the forest. Then we drove on to the old town of Fredrikstad and after lunch and a play at the playground and feeding the goats (Antonia wanted so badly to jump over the fence to give them a kiss) we ended up at the bottom of a grassy slope. We all practiced rolling down – first Felix, then Mum, then me, and then, of course, Antonia – she refused to be left out! We only let her roll down the lowest bit but she was game. I’d forgotten how giddy it makes you feel. And we just lay on the grass and the sun shone and shone and Felix rolled and Antonia picked bits of grass and chewed on them and it was about as perfect as an afternoon can get.

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Antonia turns 1 (32/52)

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My beautiful baby turned one on Sunday. My adorable, affectionate, adventurous Antonia. Felix was there to open her presents and eat her cake. It brought back memories of Felix’s first birthday. (That party was a little quieter, because of the lack of four year olds tearing around.) But Antonia’s was as lovely as could be. Here’s a photo from the archives, exactly one year earlier, the day Antonia was born:

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Felix was shy of her, to start with, but wanted to give her her bear.

A year. A year with these two beautiful creatures. Antonia has started daycare now and it is hard to be apart, especially from her perspective. When I pick her up we hug and hug and she relaxes quickly, then demands to go scoot around on the bikes outside. She loves to stand on the platform on the back of a tricycle while Felix rides it around.

As ever, she wakes frequently at night to feed, and I stroke her hair and breathe her in. In the morning, I wake to her smile, her earnest wet kisses, her soft soft cheeks.

Felix wants to know when she will turn proper 1, when she will start to talk. He was a little surprised that she didn’t seem much different from the day before.

More from the archives. When Antonia was tiny, all she wanted was to snuggle in close.

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Dear sweet Antonia, at exactly one year old you adore your family and we adore you. You love to be outside and bounce and zoom around, and you love to be on our laps reading books. You have kisses for all of us. You can mmmmmm like a cow, buzz like a bee, meow like a cat, and rah like a lion. When you don’t want something (food, a person) you wave it away fervently. When you do want something you point with great insistence and say eh eh! When I pick you up from barnehage you sing quietly to yourself, ‘mamamamama’. I am so very glad you’re here. We love you. We love you. We love you so.

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And more pictures from her party. xxx

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Felix: requesting a photo as he swung with Antonia in the playground in town.

Antonia: playing with Michael on our bed. Felix took this – he decided he wanted to take a photo of Michael and Antonia, so he did. I just adore her curls. This age is so much fun. This evening she insisted I put on her shoes (slightly too big for her, saved from when Felix was one), so she could climb the stairs in them. It took me a while to cotton on to her request but she persisted until I understood. She proceeded to crawl around so very pleased with herself, every little while looking back to check that they were still there.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

Transitions

The sweetest, softest, cuddliest, funniest little girl is beginning barnehage next week. I’m excited about going back to work. But I don’t want to leave her. I don’t want her to cry. She’s going to cry.

I arrived to pick up Felix a bit early today and we played together in the playground with Antonia. Antonia climbed up onto the tray on the back of one of the tricycles, and stood there, holding on, so Felix jumped on and cycled her around, saying ‘look at my baby! It’s her first bike ride!’ It was the cutest thing ever. He cycled her around to the back of the barnehage and gave her a swing. Much higher than I would. She laughed and laughed. Yesterday I picked him up even earlier and they were still inside, so Felix showed Antonia one of the baby toys with little slides to roll balls down. She loves the barnehage. She’s going to be ok.

And today I met one of her new carers, and I already know the leader of her class because she had Felix for much of last year. So. I am cultivating calm. I want Antonia to know that I know she’s going to be alright there. I really wish the two of them were going to be together outside because it would be so nice for Antonia to see a familiar face, but from next week Felix will be in the big kids section and she’ll be in the baby section, which have separate buildings and playgrounds, so their paths will rarely cross.

Today was my last official day of maternity leave. Michael took Felix to barnehage in the morning. Antonia and I pottered around after breakfast. I folded half a load of washing before she demanded that I read books with her. So I read books with her. I trailed behind her as she climbed the stairs. We played in Felix’s room for a bit. I had a cup of tea and she squashed some strawberries. I fed her to sleep upstairs. My good friend dropped in on her last day of her holidays and we had a brief and lovely kid-free chat. Antonia woke up and cuddled with me for a good ten minutes, peeping cheekily over at my friend. I walked into town for an eye exam and Michael took Antonia to a cafe and a playground. I met them and gave her a feed in the park, looked for a new lunchbox for her but couldn’t decide, bought some broccoli for dinner and cucumber for her snacks, let her play in the playroom at the shopping centre for a bit, then went to pick up Felix. A simple day, a good day. There will be others.

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Antonia: a girl after my own heart. She loves to climb up onto Felix’s little chair, select a book, then sit down and ‘read’.

Felix: Mum snapped this photo of him sailing his sea plane on our recent holiday on the Swedish coast.

It has been so lovely having my parents around. We stayed down on the Swedish coast for a few nights – a gorgeous place of rocky outcrops and boat-filled harbours. It was a perfect summer holiday. The weather has not been brilliant this summer, so I felt spoilt with two days of sunshine by the sea – playing in the garden behind the B&B, clambering on the rocks at the beach, eating ice cream, cake, fish and pizza at the wharf, mini golf, bouncy castles, and a beautiful watercolour museum.

In one week I go back to work and Antonia starts barnehage. Can you believe it? My parents are off on a trip through Europe for ten days, coming back for the weekend of Antonia’s birthday. So I have some time now to focus on the transition. There are a few things left to sort out – making sure Antonia has all the gear she needs – rain clothes, shoes (she’s never worn shoes!), lunch box, rain boots etc. Not to mention locating all of Felix’s stuff too. I am excited and a little apprehensive, and I hope my dear sweet cuddly Antonia will be ok. I have been mentally preparing for this moment all year, and it is so close now that there is no time for hesitation – merely a few deep breaths before we all plunge in.

But here are some more glimpses of our trip.

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Summer holidays (29/52)

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I’m not sure why traveling around the UK with the two of them is relatively easy, even fun, but staying at home for a week with them feels, at times, like sticking pins into my eyes. Well, I sort of know. The travel thing is exciting and novel and there’s always lots to do. Here we do stuff in the mornings and I spend the early afternoon trying to get Antonia to have her nap, and the late afternoon letting her have it, and Felix gets a bit overwrought despite trampolines and craft supplies. But today we had a very nice morning in the newly upgraded playground in town, and on Monday (when I took these photos) we enjoyed going out for a piece of cake at the bakery in the shopping centre.

Michael couldn’t understand why I found the above photo so amusing, but for me it sums up a lot of my days. Antonia: what have you go there, Mummy? Can I have it? Felix: Twirling about in his own little world, covered in cake crumbs, planning his next antic/question/project/point of discussion. The other day we ended up talking about what people looked like in the nineteenth century, because he wanted to know. (He doesn’t know about the nineteenth century, really, but he knows about ‘when there were steam trains’).

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Today Antonia got a huge bruise on her head from falling off Felix’s wicker chair, and Felix had a massive melt-down at dinner time, exactly as Michael walked in the door, because he couldn’t stick together the little sticks he was pretending were logs in exactly the way he intended. Good thing they are cute.

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