I always meant to write a post about weaning Felix, but I never did. I wish I had. With him I reduced his feeds gradually over a few weeks, and then suddenly got hit with mastitis while we were in holiday in Austria. The doctor there gave me antibiotics and a pill to take to stop milk production. It was hard to make myself take it, I felt so sad. I remember standing in the little kitchen of our holiday apartment, hesitating, holding it in my hands, and then going for a long walk through the wildflower meadows. I weaned him at 17 months, mostly because I was eager to have another baby, and my body wasn’t up for that with him feeding every hour or so over night, which he had done since he was three months old. Once he was weaned he started sleeping like a champion.
Antonia likes to feed all night too. At least every two hours, and more frequently as morning approaches. I have cherished my breastfeeding relationship with Antonia, although it has at times been gruelling. Felix would always do a decent stretch of sleep in the early evening but Antonia never did, always requiring more within half an hour of going down, and more again two hours after that. I have fed on demand and fed her to sleep and it has been the magic cure-all for everything – if she trips over, if she’s tired, if she’s missing me, if she’s bored. She has delighted in it, to the embarrassment of some. Whenever I talked to my parents on skype she decided it was a good time to take advantage, and I think she was showing off. ‘Meh!’ she would declare, with emphasis and clear delight.
Her requests in recent weeks have included: ‘Meh time!’ ‘Meh outside!’ ‘Bedtime meh’ ‘Meh sofa!’ ‘Sit down Mummy’ ‘Meh now!’ Meh – yah?’ And the solemn, throaty, trusting ‘uh side’ (other side). I only ever used to feed her one side at a time but when I tried to cut down the night feeds a month or so ago I let her have two sides before bed, and she thought that was fantastic and needed to be experienced on every occasion. This was not a problem really during the day but quite frustrating at 1 and 3 and 5 in the morning.
I always planned to night-wean her in the summer holidays and I did, almost. I wasn’t willing to give up my sleep-ins so gave her a free pass around 5. Which crept back to 4.30, then 4, and then…
She got a couple of little colds, and wanted to feed all day and all night. We would get home from work and she would tantrum on the floor because I was cooking dinner and not breastfeeding. She would climb on my lap when I was eating breakfast and try to help herself. I started to resent it. This wasn’t nice for either of us. After a particularly disturbed night after her second birthday party on Sunday, on Monday this week I decided I’d had enough. I would just stop. That would be it. Classes start next week, I would have a week to get through the worst of it. I couldn’t bear the thought of another semester balancing precariously on nights of patchwork sleep, and the restriction of not being able to leave her at night.
It’s been going well. Last night at bedtime she said ‘all gone meh’. And when I picked her up from day care today, she said, cheerfully, firmly, in her little sing-song way, ‘no meh’. She is still disconsolate in the middle of the night but she is getting used to it. This evening, when I turned off the nursery rhymes we’d been watching after her bath, she said ‘meh now, peees?’ And I would have liked to, oh, I would. ‘Peees, peees, peeees!’ ‘Look,’ I said, ‘you can have some more weetbix if you’re still hungry.’ ‘Strawberry?’ she said. ‘Raspberry?’ And picked one up from the table as we went past on our way downstairs and that was the end of it. It is bittersweet.
I feel lighter already, younger, even. There is a heaviness to nursing – a beautiful heaviness, but a heaviness all the same. And, as Andie Fox has memorably put it, extended breastfeeding can be ‘a lazy mothers best friend‘. As it fixes everything, you can pacify them without having to think too much about it. You can sleep in together. You can entertain them wordlessly while you finish a conversation with a friend. You can bribe them to come to bed. In short, it is lovely, and an excellent tool. But there are other ways of doing things.
I feel I have been more alert and attentive to her since I’ve stopped. I feel I have more to give of the rest of me.
Of course the milk is not gone, yet. It will take a while. I have been expressing in the shower morning and night, but I think I’ll be able to drop to once a day soon, and gradually express less and less. I was terrified the first couple of days that I would develop another infection. It hurt. What am I doing to myself? I thought. I even got hold of antibiotics and intend to keep them close by me over the weeks to come. But now it seems to be okay. I am glad I didn’t have to take a pill, like the first time. This slow ebb is better.
I wrote this post two or three weeks ago, but it didn’t feel finished and I never got back to it. I remember Michael saying ‘soon the breastfeeding will just exist in your memory’. Which isn’t quite true. Antonia still remembers it, but she’s not upset or wistful in any way. She sat on my lap the other day, and declared cheerfully, ‘drink meh last time!’ (Last time I sat here I drank ‘meh’.) It’s more than a memory – it’s part of her body, and mine. But it’s ok that that part is over.
Antonia had been anticipating her birthday for months. Mostly I she wanted us to sing happy birthday to her. We had some cake after dinner on Tuesday, and barnehage gave her a cardboard birthday crown. She was very slow opening her presents because she loved them all. (A wooden rocket, and a plastic breakfast set with salt shakers, coffee pots, eggs and egg cups. ‘Dolly’ from Grandma, and ‘Baby’ that Oma gave her last week. Once she discovered the pram all she wanted to do was take her babies to the ‘playground’. We’re having a party with some friends on Sunday, so the festivities aren’t over yet.
- Hiking in Ystehede.
- Drawing robots.
- Preparing a lentil shepherd’s pie.
- Eating it, with a glass of wine.
We went for a walk today on the other side of our little fjord (which is really an inlet from the main fjord). We had a picnic there last week with Michael’s parents, and Felix and Michael had managed to explore the hiking track a bit, but today was the first time Antonia and I went there. It is just so lovely there. We climbed up the hill through the forest and were able to look over the water to our house, and had a little picnic a bit further on. Antonia acquiesced to sitting in the ergo backpack if I galloped along like a horse now and then to cheer her up. We let her walk some of the way but she kept stopping to sample blueberries and the weather was rather threatening so we didn’t want to take hours. She was bitterly disappointed that I wouldn’t let her scramble over all the rocky beaches on the way back (it was raining lightly, and they were slippery). She managed to negotiate for an icecream once we got home to make up for it.
Once we got home the kids and I practiced drawing robots. It was a good thing to do with Felix as robots are quite doable and rather fun. ‘Too scary robots’ are a thing in our house now. We saw a man dressed up as a robot outside the science museum in London a few weeks ago, and Felix loved him but Antonia did not. She was in tears a day later when we accidentally sat next to a life size toy robot in the Victoria and Albert museum of childhood. Felix of course is delighted and has decided he loves robots. But Antonia is warming to them, and it was her idea to draw them today.
Then I made my pie in response to the slight hint of autumn in the air, and it was good. It was very good.
I made a list because various other parts of the day were scrappy and challenging, but these bits were so nice. I do that a lot, I think – collate the best bits to remember. Life is gradually returning to routine after the summer holidays – classes start in two weeks. I often think of writing here in the evening but end up tidying or sorting laundry instead.
Also Felix today asked me if rocks could be big enough to reach another galaxy. Well, I said, lots of rocks float around. No, he said, from here. No, I said, they can’t. What if you stacked them up? They’d fall over. But what if they were really flat ones?
For more than a year, after Antonia’s bath, I would wrap her up in a towel and jiggle her up and down in front of the mirror. ‘Who’s my baby bundle, who’s my baby bundle?’ I would sing. ‘Antonia! Antonia! Anto-ni-a!’ And she would giggle and ask for more. Eventually she would ask for ‘baby bundle’ herself as I was drying her. And then, about a month ago, she started asking for ‘baby bundle’, and then interrupting with a cheeky ‘Nei!’ as soon as I started. ‘What?’ I asked her. ‘Where’s my baby bundle?’ ‘Gone’, she’d shrug. ‘All gone.’
My Mum was recently here for a month, and just before she left, so say, the 8th or 9th of July, as Antonia turned 23 months old, something shifted. It was palpable. Until that day she’d said yes to nearly everything, or, to be precise, ‘Yah’. She said ‘yah’ because she was a generally agreeable soul, and she’d also say it when she wasn’t sure what else to say. Sometimes it was bright and emphatic, sometimes a low drawl that always made us smile. But all of a sudden, she’s nearly two, and has discovered the delights of ‘no’.’Did you have fun in the barnehage’, we ask. ‘Nei!’ she chirrups. ‘Not!’
She’s discovered that she can scream really loudly for a long time, even in the middle of the night, if she’s not pleased about something. Long repressed memories of Felix at the same age have begun resurfacing.
She still mixes up her pronouns a bit but has started using the first person and speaking in sentences. She can say pretty much anything she likes and her pronunciation is getting clearer and clearer. Until recently, everything was ‘help-oo’, or ‘Mummy help-oo (you)’, but she’s started throwing in the odd ‘me’ or just leaving out the ‘you’ altogether. ‘Mummy help!’ When we read the page in The Tiger Who Came to Tea when they all put on their coats and go to a cafe, she says ‘I do that?’
She can count to ten and name quite a few colours. She can, and often does, sing Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with gusto all the way through.
I have been *cough* attempting to wean her, or at least to reduce her feeds a little. It was going quite well, and for a while I wasn’t feeding her at night until – well, the aim was 5 but it quickly slid to 4.30, and then, well… But I had also completely cut down on feeds during the day, apart from just before her nap if we were home. And I stopped feeding her to sleep for her nap and just before bed, I’d give her a feed, read her a book, and sing her a song. Twinkle Twinkle was the song of choice. And it was working well…
But she still wakes frequently and screams so very loudly that after two or so I just don’t have it in me to resist. She’s totally taken advantage of my wavering and is now once again asking for it all day every day, sigh. I try to distract but I’m a bit of a pushover. On Friday I picked them up early from barnehage (bagabaga as she calls it), and as soon as we got home she demanded ‘meh’. I managed to distract her with a huge bowl of popcorn (one of her favourite foods) and some water. We all sat outside together eating our snack. She happily sat on her little red chair, munching away for quite some time. Then she stood up. ‘Done!’ She declared cheerfully, ‘meh-time!’, and strutted towards me, beaming.
We had pretty much the perfect evening. After dinner on our deck (mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, meatballs for the kids and yesterday’s pasta sauce – supplies are running low) Michael suggested we put the picnic rug down on the lawn and soak up the sun. So we did. And Felix ran and jumped off our big rock – watch me! Look at my new trick! And Antonia tried the same – watch me! My new trick! She couldn’t manage to jump off the rock (thankfully) but climbed up and slid down on her bum. And then we all ran races back and forth and the kids were stralende (glowing, radiant – not sure if this is the correct way to use it but for some reason this word seems perfect). Ah so so nice.
And tomorrow I’m off to Stockholm with my baby girl, for a conference, along with one of my favourite colleagues, and I’m going to meet my Mum there! Michael’s excited about a boy’s week at home (has never happened before). My conference paper has had great difficulty attracting my attention over the past couple of weeks (and still does), but it’s not till Friday, so all will be well. Happy. Happy. Happy. 11 pm and the sky is still pink. But yeah, better finish packing my bag.
So the new house has lots of outside spaces to play in. One morning shortly after we moved in I walked into the hallway to find Felix solicitously putting Antonia’s shoes on so they could play together outside. We’ve been here two weeks now and the weather has been gorgeous and we’ve been outside a lot. And we’ve instituted a new rule of not leaving our computers lying around and not having them turned on when the kids are around. (Screen time was getting a bit out of control.) After just a couple of days they’ve completely stopped asking to watch anything, and as well as hanging out outside a lot we’re reading more books and making more puzzles, and it is good.
Even my garden gave me a birthday present – all its flowers opened up over the past week, just in time. Michael got afternoon tea ready. Antonia learned how to sing happy birthday (she likes to sing it to me as long as I sing it to her too), and Felix reminded everyone that we needed to sing it, and insisted that I have the first piece of cake. My gorgeous friends threw a surprise picnic for me last weekend, no less. I’m feeling fortunate, and feeling loved.
The last afternoon playing in our old house. Felix was very nostalgic about the big tree and took lots of photos of it.
All of a sudden, summer. On Saturday night we got back from a few days in Kristiansand. We’d never been there before, and it was gorgeous. It’s Norway’s favourite holiday town, and has a very famous zoo and kid’s theme park, which has been a national treasure for fifty years now. Michael took the kids one day while I was at a conference. The conference was great, and a real thrill for me – I got to present a paper on my current favourite poet, and she was actually there, listening! She even laughed in the right places.
We took the ferry from Stromstad to Sandefjord, and that was lovely too, all sparkling sea and low granite islands. We didn’t get any photos of the trip, but on Sunday, once we got back, I was lucky enough to go with some friends to a rocky, granite outcrop, complete with tiny islands, not far away from here. Felix tried crab fishing for the first time – he was very intrigued, but a little too nervous to pull them in without help. Antonia jumped at the chance to sample the local mud.
I’m cheating a little, because I took these photos last Sunday, not the week before. I meant to take some the week before, but couldn’t get the camera operational in time. It would have been the same photo but in better light (evening, not morning), and the kids were wearing their fleece-lined raincoats. It’s gone from really quite cold to really quite hot over night.
Antonia is obsessed with Felix right now and wants him to do everything for her. Strap her into the stroller. Push her in the swing. ‘Gegick, push!’ she cries. ‘Gegick, come!’
Today it is two weeks until we get the keys to our new house. Soon we need to start packing. This weekend, I suppose. I am very excited about our new place but it is strange to think we will leave here. The blossoms are out in our garden. We’ve been hanging out outside a lot – having pretend picnics on the lawn, complete with friends and mini tea sets, digging in the sandpit, swinging, bouncing on the trampoline, sliding down the little plastic slide. This evening Felix climbed up the slide, grabbed hold of the dangling branches of the tree, and swung down onto the ground. Practicing paragliding, he said.
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.
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.
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.
Just for fun here’s Felix, just a little younger than Antonia is now, riding the same horse. (From this post from July 2012.)
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I took the kids out hiking in the forest today, and it was nice, despite some complaining from the one who had to walk all the way.
This evening my kids turned the coffee table upside down so that it became a dance floor, and then jived away on it. ‘Doo doo doo doo’ said Antonia, bouncing away, copying Felix.
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.
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!
And my dear, dear, puffball Antonia is about the sweetest thing in the world right now.
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.
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)
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.
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.
She likes to be upside down.
She likes to be close to me.
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.
So hard to believe that this time next week we’ll be in chilly Norway.
Perfect way to ring out the old year: whirling around in the surf with my wild and joyful children. We stayed on the beach as the sun set and the stars came out and we couldn’t have been happier.
Felix: The training wheels came off on Boxing Day. He did so great!
Antonia: Canned tuna for breakfast on Christmas day.
And that wraps up a portrait of my children (nearly) every week in 2015.
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.
I’m running a little late with these, and I’ve missed a couple of weeks here at the tail-end of the year, despite my best intentions, but here are the little ones the week we arrived in Australia. Pretty happy to be here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Then we wandered around the harbour before meeting up with friends in the afternoon.
The clouds and sun were all silky in the water.