16/52

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Felix: chilling out on a Sunday evening after a busy weekend of baking, socialising, and bouncing in the sun.

Antonia: doing the same.

Often there’s a sweet spot after dinner in which the kids are happy enough to bumble around for a while and we can even drink a cup of tea. This evening Felix was a little overwrought after a full afternoon playing with Michael and our visitors – he was still demanding loudly that we play with him,  but we all needed quiet, so Thomas the Tank Engine and pita bread pizza came to the rescue. There is quite a lot of satisfaction in giving your kid exactly what they need when they need it. Antonia had more energy to play after a big drink of milk. Now both munchkins are asleep (for the moment at least) and we are savouring the quiet. Happy Sunday evening to you all. x

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

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15/52

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Today we went to the Inspiria Science Center for the birthday party of one of Felix’s classmates. Felix could not get enough. He was still scampering around, testing out the various exhibits four hours after we arrived, when everyone else had gone home. His favourite was a magnetic parachute launcher, but these giant amber coloured beads gave me the best photo. Antonia enjoyed herself as well – after a long nap in the ergo she was pretty excited to clamber all the way to the end of this tunnel and out again.

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

More fun below.

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Happy Easter!

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We normally go away for Easter, and so, for that matter, do most of our friends. This time, we all stayed put, and it has been so nice. I’ve made hot cross buns (twice), done Easter crafts with Felix, lit candles, chilled out with the family, dressed Antonia up like a little bunny, and taken the kids on a walk to look for beavers. And today we went around to our friend’s house for an Easter egg hunt – four little boys careering round the garden collecting their sweets were a sight to behold. Happy Easter!

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14/52

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Felix, sporting a new crooked haircut (it always takes me a few days to straighten up the ends), lets me take photos of him in the window of the harbour cafe as he gleefully repeats some nonsense phrase that appeals to him for some reason or another, probably concerning planes or cars. He immediately wants to look at the pictures of him saying whatever it was. We’ve just been to the dentist, next door, and are having a coffee (me) and a bun (him) before I take him back to barnehage. I have a fever (and will be so very unwell for most of the week) but it is a nice morning all the same.

Antonia, unapologetic, has crawled into the centre of Felix’s train track. Felix has tried a variety of strategies to thwart her efforts, such as barricades of toys and chairs, but nothing works. ‘Mummy! Watch her! She’s getting there! Stop her!’ Luckily she’s not so destructive as she was during her first few successful encounters with it, now she’s explored it thoroughly already.

It’s been so enchanting watching the little crawling bundle exploring her space. I watched her realise she could crawl round corners. ‘Heh! Hah!’ puff puff puff ‘Dadadadada!’ as she engines along towards Felix’s play kitchen. I plopped her in the kitchen the other day when I was making breakfast, so she would stay away from the aforementioned train track. She bumbled around a little bit, and then she noticed the doorway. She looked through the doorway, to Felix playing. Norwegian doorways all have a bit of raised wood that you need to step over to go through them (I’m not really sure why, maybe something to do with heat retention), and up till now it had visually contained her within a room. But I could see her thinking – hang on, I could get over that. ‘Hah!’ she said, ‘heh!’ And then ‘maaaaeh!’, when after five minutes it still didn’t work. To begin with she couldn’t get her knees over, but later in the day she mastered it, spending a good half an hour crawling back and forth over it once she’d figured it out. I’m so proud of my clambering explorer, and I dearly wish I could let her loose in my Grandma’s kitchen.

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

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A long way away

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Thinking of my cousin Hannah and her husband Lochie today, and the loss, too sad for words, of their daughter Chelsea Anne, who died mere days before she was meant to be born, for no good reason. As I go to bed in Norway, a new day starts in Australia, and it is her funeral. We wish it did not have to be. We wish we could all wake up into any other world.

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13/52

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Here is Felix in Berlin as he prepares to go down the steepest slide I have ever seen. The boy has no fear.

And Antonia not appreciating being made to pose looking into the sun. She has the sweetest little lips. Antonia has mastered crawling forwards this week and cut a top tooth (and nearly a second one). I meant to try to take some photos of her crawling to reach her brother’s train track, but I have not been well at all this weekend, so will try another time.

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

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What was I saying about spring?

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We’re back in Norway. I spent Antonia’s midday nap today shovelling snow.

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It’s pretty cosy inside though. Here’s our toy storage space in our living room, with an added box of baby toys. It’s been fun revisiting the things Felix used to play with. The two wicker baskets are still stuffed to the top with wooden trains and tracks, in use almost daily. This week Antonia has perfected crawling forward, so the tracks are frequently in peril.

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I finally managed to hang up a picture of the two of them that I took last year. ‘Do what you love.’

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More love in the park

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I just love this photo Michael snapped of the three of us. Felix is showing me a triangular stone. We went back there today and he found a stone shaped like the tail of a plane. He insisted I actually look at it instead of just saying ‘hmmmm, that’s great’, and it really was!

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We are in Germany at the moment and Oma and Opa have been soaking in their grandchildren.

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12/52

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Felix and Antonia: having the best time ever in a park in Germany this week. It was Antonia’s first proper swing. (Here’s a post about one of Felix’s first swings In those photos he’s a month older than Antonia is now). Felix insisted on pushing her high. She could not stop chuckling and Felix had a ball. They kept it up for ages. Just the sweetest things. These two adore each other. Tonight in the bath Antonia was laughing and laughing at Felix saying ‘monster!’ in a silly voice and splashing water around.

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

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Spring

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It feels a little cheeky, having entirely skipped the winter, but I am marvelling at spring all the same. The bulbs in the park in town are piercing through the earth, nothing can stop them.

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The buds of baby pine cones on our tree are barely visible, but they are there.

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Felix picked handfuls of the old pinecones yesterday as we picnicked in the garden.

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It was the first time we’ve got out there this year. Antonia slept.

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Whitby came to join the party.

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Felix was so pleased when Antonia woke up again, wearing his old red coat. I thought of all our other springs in this place. Baby Felix peering up at blossoms. Toddler Felix helping build the sandbox. Or playing with the pinecones. Three year old Felix cycling round the deck, thinking about the baby inside me, telling me he missed me before he was born. And now there is another spring, a new one, and I am glad.

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11/52

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Felix: Fireman’s hat on, so proud of the towers he built while I attempted to put Antonia to sleep. He told me the tallest tower fell over several times but he didn’t mind, he just tried again. He discovered it worked best if he saves the lightest blocks for the top. I’m so proud of him.

Antonia: Recovering from a nasty cold; entranced by her hands.

I took both of these photos on Friday, a good and jam-packed day, despite Antonia being awake for several hours the night before with a fever. Felix goes to barnehage four days a week and stays home with me for one. We had Felix’s four year check-up (a bit of a non-event, but we discovered his eyesight is quite good), ate buns in our favourite cafe, swung on the swings outside the library while we waited for it for open, read books there for an hour, walked back through town, came home for lunch, made block towers, baked ANZAC biscuits, had a picnic on the lawn while Antonia napped in the stroller, bounced on the trampoline, cooked and ate dinner and even cleaned up the kitchen before I tipped the two little ones into the bath. I’m channeling my Aunty Anne these days – she said to me recently, reminiscing on raising her four children: ‘I remember thinking: I don’t need to sit down now, even though I wish I could, there will be time enough for that once they have grown up. And there is.’

I love the concentration on Antonia’s face in the photo above, but I just have to include this one, too.

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

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Seven months

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Being seven months old with a big, adoring, bouncy brother is quite an experience. This evening Antonia laughed and laughed at Felix’s game of throwing a balloon to Michael and me, and then trying to catch it himself. This morning when she started complaining in her highchair while I was getting Felix’s lunchbox ready, Felix found a board book about a snowman and ‘read’ it to her to keep her happy.

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I’ve been enjoying kicking around the house with her once again. At seven months Antonia loves to chat, loves to smile at strangers, loves to wriggle around, give slobby kisses, snatch glasses, do downward dogs and get up on her hands and knees, but she still hasn’t figured out crawling forwards. In the car, she still sings herself to sleep. She’s been enjoying talking to my Mum on skype – now she starts smiling already the moment I log in.

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She is our cheeky gorgeous babe and we love her so.

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Felix: Jet-lagged and tired after a day at barnehage, but concentrating hard on ‘cooking’ dinner in his mini kitchen. I love the light in our house on sunny afternoons. Felix has been enjoying systematically reacquainting himself with his old toys. It has been delightful to see how easily he’s transitioned to being back here, though today he insisted that we ring both Grandma and Grandma Ruth. Also this week, for the first time in his life, he’s told us three nights in a row: ‘I want to go to bed now’. Which, I must admit, I do too.

Antonia: Trying to get the camera strap. Many people offer comments about Antonia when I’m out and about. ‘Look at her arms’, said a florist in Adelaide – ‘she’s a Michelin baby!’ ‘It doesn’t look like she skips any meals’, said a Norwegian lady in a cafe last year. My favourite was from a mother at a paddling pool in Adelaide – ‘Oh, is that your baby? She’s spectacular.’ And somebody else, I can’t remember who, said – ‘she has possibly – no, definitely – the best baby cheeks I have ever seen.’ And she is truly delicious. How lucky am I, to kiss those cheeks all day.

I suspect Antonia’s eyes may go hazel-green like Felix’s and my own, but for the moment they are blue as blue, especially around the edges. I love this deep blue cardigan we bought in Australia, and it matches our favourite nick-name for her, Bubble.

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

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Back

I need to write some of this down before it fades. The flight back went very well, despite some anxiety about boarding passes in Kuala Lumpur airport. The kids slept well and played well and were generally agreeable, and did not get sick which was appreciated. I got some motion sickness tablets for Felix and who knows if he needs them or not but every other long haul flight over the past two years has ended in vomit, so I’ll definitely be packing them from now on. Felix was a little bored sitting around on the plane but he entertained himself admirably. I didn’t even have an ipad for him. He was absolutely gorgeous in the airports, insisting on walking himself and pulling his little suitcase, but quite happily going as fast as I asked him to in order to find our gate. In Doha airport by the time they announced boarding for families with small children and business class passengers, everyone else had already started queuing, so I decided to barge past them all. ‘Excuse me!’ I said. Felix piped up gleefully: ‘Coming through! We have a baby and a little guy, coming through!’

We were all so happy to see Michael again. We arrived at 7.30 in the morning and Felix did not stop talking all day, not even napping in the car on the way back to Halden, until he crashed into bed at 6pm. Antonia chuckled and wriggled whenever Michael looked at her, and when we went to our favourite cafe in the afternoon, was only interested in tasting Michael’s bun, not mine.

Driving into Halden felt so strange. Michael said it had felt strange to him to – in your mind are still all the roads and paths and light and routines of the place you have left, and you have to let them go and replace them with those of this place, but you are reluctant at first, you try to hold on. Norway has obliged by making it as easy as possible for me with a week of cold sunshine and frosted grass. Yesterday morning I looked out of the window and there were four young deer stepping carefully across our lawn.

Our friends are eager to see us. We feel welcomed. Felix has slotted back into barnehage life without a hiccup. I haven’t quite got enough winter things for Antonia to wear, but we are getting by. The days are light-filled. It was very clever of me to skip February.

When I walked in the door to our little house I thought – how is it possible to live in a house so small? It is perfectly possible, of course, and very lovely even, as long as you stay on top of all the cleaning and putting stuff away, so I have been attacking those things with gusto, making the small changes to our living space needed for a nearly seven month old baby instead of a three month one. An extra box of toys on the shelf instead of the box of changes of clothes we had down here before. The difference in Antonia and in the shape of our family after a space of three months is significant. She sits at the table with us now in her highchair. We need four glasses for water at dinner, so I pulled out a jug for water for us all, and it felt special. Antonia loves to drink water from a glass – she flaps her arms out wide with excitement, then grips the top of the glass and takes a couple of sips before blowing raspberries in it. Soon the novelty of all this will collapse into the every day, but I hope some of the specialness can stay.

At the library

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These photos taken at the library didn’t quite work out but I love them all the same. I have so enjoyed taking Felix up here to story time once a week, and Antonia has enjoyed watching the other children and playing with these bead things.

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After a month of coming to story time once a week I was starting to get to know some of the parents, and last week a few of them said ‘see you next week’, and I had to say, no, actually, you won’t, we’ll be in another world by then.

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9/52

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Felix: trying to blow bubbles outside my Grandma’s house. The bubbles weren’t working too well by now but I love his patient concentration and the way the light reflects up at him from the sunny pavement.

Antonia: cheeky smiles in the park. Bonus photos below. Tomorrow we hop on a plane (well, three planes) back to the cold.

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

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Over the bridge

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Felix woke up this morning with his loud voice. I could hear it from my bedroom as he bossed my Mum around: ‘Gwanma!’ When Mum left for work he brought his loud voice into my bedroom, cheerfully waking Antonia and flopping on our bed.

‘I want to go to Marion Bridge!’ he announced. ‘Murray Bridge’, I said, ‘Why?’ (Knowing full well it was just because Mum was working there today.) ‘To go over the bridge,’ he said.

And the darlings are finally asleep and I should be too but it is too tempting to stay up and breathe. The success of my days is measured in smiles and cuddles and windswept playgrounds but sometimes I lift my head.

The tiny achievements of the small beings closest to me are endlessly fascinating to me. My heart skips a little to see Antonia edge closer and closer to crawling. The moments I want to remember are those when they are ‘in the groove’, doing their thing, curious, content. Antonia singing to us – ‘bababababa!’ Felix deciding to pick mint, basil and tomatoes for dinner, and finding appropriate bowls for them from the cupboard. He can do it unsupervised, knowing to leave the green ones to ripen.

Like I said, endlessly fascinating – to me and Mum and Dad and Michael, and hardly anyone else.

And of course there are the other moments which I don’t particularly want to remember at all.

And apart from that, here, there’s my family, and my old old friends, and parks and gorgeous sunshine, and I’ll be leaving it all soon and that’s ok. Somewhere in the air and the light here is the self I was twelve and fifteen and thirty years ago, and if I look sideways briefly I can almost see her. And somewhere, I guess, is the self I would have been if I never had left. I see her in playgrounds and in libraries and I wonder.

But an aeroplane and a white house and cold air and a tightly coiled spring await me, and I’m coming.

8/52

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Felix licks the spoon, Antonia has to content herself with the unused juicer.

I took these pictures on Tuesday in my Grandma’s kitchen. We turned up unannounced early Tuesday morning, and Grandma declared delightedly – ‘well, that sorts out my morning for me! I’m not going to the gym after all.’ We played on the lawn for a while while Granddad worked in the garden, and Felix made a duplo train track outside. Antonia had a short nap. Felix flicked through one of Grandma’s fancy cook-books, and asked ‘can we make these?’ ‘They look a bit too complicated’, said Grandma, ‘but we could make muffins.’

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Felix carefully mashed the bananas and measured out the chocolate chips. He was entranced by the special drawers Grandma has for flour and sugar, just as I had been as a child.

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When Antonia woke up, Grandma gave her some cups and things to play with, just has she had for Felix, three years ago.

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As the muffins cooked, the pair of them capered about on the floor for a bit. One of the worst things about living in Norway is being so far away from here, but right now, for another week, we are soaking it in.

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

Four

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Happy birthday to my dearest four year old, who whoops with delight at his bright green ice cream cake, then blows each candle out gently, one by one, then insists that everyone tastes it, and checks that we can save a piece for Grandma. Who makes friends with ‘little guys’ in playgrounds and cafes in two seconds flat, but is nearly too scared to listen to a picture book about little chicks and a fox, and then listens anyway, his hands over his ears. We couldn’t have invented you. We love you so.

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We had pretty much the perfect day on Felix’s birthday last Friday. I stayed up past midnight the night before re-building the trackmaster Thomas tracks he received for Christmas, as his most dearly held wish for his birthday was more ‘plastic trains’, and he would need to be able to try them out immediately. (This is a feat about 20 times as complicated as it sounds, but I can say that now I’m a pro.) He unwrapped his presents on the steps in the morning. ‘Plastic Charlie! . . . ‘Plastic Emily!’

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Mum had most of the day off so we took him to the Royal Copenhagen ice cream shop in Brighton for a pancake and ice cream breakfast. ‘We should come here again’, he said, whilst polishing off substantial portions of his chocolate smeared crepe, strawberries and chocolate ice cream. He then made friends with a little girl and sat in the window seat with her pushing his little car back and forth.

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It was then time for sandcastles, a swim and a wander on the jetty, before lunch and heading back home to play. My Grandparents came over for a simple dinner. Felix was absolutely adorable the entire time. He didn’t even kick up a fuss when he realised he had received his final present. After dinner we were all sitting downstairs and he said to my Grandparents: ‘Will you come to my birthday next year in Norway?’ My Granddad started to explain that it was a bit far away, but Grandma interrupted: ‘Peter, don’t say that. Of course.’

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7/52

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Felix, four this week, meeting a parrot at the zoo. When I showed him the photo he said – ‘so cute! It looks just like Klara!’ Did I ever tell you about Klara? Remind me to tell you about Klara.

Antonia loves her broccoli. I love her curls and her squidgy arms and her dear sweet eyes seeking mine. 

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

Six months

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Today, my beautiful girl, you are six months old. This week you have cut your first two teeth. I’m unaccountably but predictably proud of you, and relieved that there was a reason behind a night three times as restless as usual. You’ve spent a lot of the past week chewing on your hands.

Your head is still so soft and smells so sweet. It gets plenty of kisses.

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Over the past month you’ve tried lots of new food, most of which ends up all over you, your high chair and the floor, but you love to chew on it. Broccoli and cucumber, peach and plum, pumpkin and asparagus.

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You’ve perfected scooting backwards along the floor and can even get up onto your knees but haven’t worked out how to go forward yet, meaning that you often end up under tables and chairs.

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You’ve done lots of playing with your brother,

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smiling at your Daddy,

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and snuggling with me. We love you so. x

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‘The colour of the sea should have astounded, but the boy was seldom astounded. . . Nevertheless, the colours had entered into him, printing a brilliant memory.’

Randolph Stow, The Merry-go-round in the Sea

Exploring: above and below.

Felix, despite being a bit nervous about heights, decided he needed to make it to the top of the complicated climbing structure in the playground. He did.

Antonia spends her days scooting along backwards. Here she was exploring my Dad’s workroom.

(edited: I changed my mind about which portraits to include this week!)

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

Early birthday

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We had an early birthday party for Felix today in our favourite local park. A perfect selection of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunties (one of Mum’s sisters and one of Dad’s), cousins and second cousins attended.

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I was very proud of the four tier strawberry sponge cake I made and Felix helped to decorate but I managed to smudge the icing just before serving, and had to patch up Thomas’s face and wagons with berries.

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Felix liked the jelly best anyway.

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Michael heads back to Norway next week but I’ve decided to stay on with the kids for another month – I’m not ready to say goodbye to my family or the weather.

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We organised the party in a bit of a rush over the past couple of days but we’d been talking about it since September when we booked our tickets. It was just so nice and I’m glad we had it early so Michael could come too.

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Felix kept asking when we were going to have ‘the race’. The park has a cute little bike and scooter path and he expected all his second cousins to get on their scooters and have a race with him! At one point he said ‘we’re never going to have this race’. Luckily enough of them obliged by getting on their vehicles and scooting around. I think Felix was the only one really aware of the ‘race’, however. He won.

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Writing now

Writing an academic paper whilst on maternity leave with two children in tow is one of my more frustrating ventures. Antonia doesn’t take a bottle, so I can’t leave her for long periods. (Disclaimer – I haven’t tried. Expressing does not appeal.) She also refuses to go to sleep for the night before about 11pm, which apparently is just what I did as a baby. Today Mum said – let me look after the kids this morning, so you can write.

Once Antonia goes down for her first nap, I sit down to begin. Mum and Felix are planting in the garden. Then my lovely aunt Anne turns up on her bike, so they all decide to have a cup of tea. ‘You can go in my bedroom if you like’, says Mum. So I did, and try working there for a while, reading over the draft I printed last night. I make some progress but after half an hour or so grow frustrated with the distracting conversations drifting in from the deck, combined with the strains of ‘Memory’ growling in from next door (my parent’s neighbour, it seems, is an amateur opera singer). There is something a little bit lovely about it all, but it’s hard to think.

I decide to move back to my bedroom, to take my chances working beside a sleeping baby. I sit on the bed. There isn’t really enough light but I ignore it. Then it is time for Anne to leave so they all move around to the front of the house so I haven’t escaped the conversations after all. The neighbour has stopped singing now and comes out the front and Mum has a chat with him about the bins. Antonia wakes up. She’s lifting her head and smiling broadly as I type, twisting her head around to peer at the window and then back at me.

Baby cuddle. Antonia is soft and snuggly and oh so pleased.

Dad and Michael take Felix to the shops. He looks so cute crossing the road with them, his little blonde head only reaching Michael’s waist. Mum takes Antonia for a walk.

Tea and toast. Back to it.

A dog barks. Maybe I should change this blog post to the present tense.

I read over a bit more of the draft and make some notes.

‘Mummeeeeeeeeeeeee!’

They are all back. Felix bounds in to the bedroom and lands on top of me. His back is strong but his cheeks are soft and he is oh so pleased.

A lovely wedding

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My cousin Sam got married a couple of weeks ago to his beloved Tracey. It was an outdoor wedding and reception on an uncharacteristically rainy day in January. But beautiful nonetheless. I was worried about how Felix would cope with the crowds, but I needn’t have been. The day before the wedding he had a blast helping the wedding party pot hundreds of little alyssums for the place markers, spooning in soil with a teaspoon.

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And during the reception he had the time of his life dancing and chasing and racing with his ‘twin’ cousin Mala for hours on end. We got home around 10.30pm, and sat around the table drinking tea and milk before bed. ‘I had a lovely wedding’, said Felix.

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Felix and the giant pink pretzel donut at the German cake shop in Hahndorf. Felix ate his very first donut a little over a month ago, after spotting one in the bakery at Carickalinga. He was almost self-combusting with joy. They eat donuts in America, he informed us, they come in boxes.

Antonia sat up by herself for minutes at a time this week, assisted by an admiring grandma. We have been looking back at Felix doing the exact same thing, though he was a month older.

Linking up with Jodi for 52 project.

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And sometimes, when there is ten minutes free, I need to write. We have been here for lots of weeks now. The weather is sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, and often perfect. There have been moments of frustration. Two months is a long time to stay with your family or your in-laws. But lately we seem to have hit a groove. The best days involve aunties and children for Felix to play with. Or parks and grandmas. Or all of the above.

As I have mentioned Antonia is not one for sleeping in the evenings and is fussing right now. This is why it is nearly impossible to finish a paper I am attempting to work on – as soon as I sit down at my computer I need to get up again. I will wait a minute now before rushing to her…

Yesterday Mum had a day off work and we took the kids up to the farm barn in Hahndorf. Felix loved the baby rabbits and the kangaroos. I loved the baby goats with their miniature triangular faces and tiny bumps of horns. Antonia loved hanging out with me.

Today we met my cousin Hannah and her husband and my Aunty Anne (Hannah’s Mum) in a cafe next to a park.

Ok. Baby.

A cuddle, a little chat, a feed, back to sleep.

While I feed Antonia to sleep I read Alice Munro stories on my kindle. I can’t get enough. Sometimes they cut too close to the bone. There are a lot of mothers abandoning children and children abandoning their mothers in her stories. And a lot of very sad love stories – disappointment, missed connections, illusions. But so many beautiful moments too. And a clarity like cut glass. I love how all the moments and details and observations are skilfully, not hurriedly, laid over one another, and it is not until you read the final paragraph, even the final line, that you discover exactly the shape they were leading to. And if you go back and re-read the opening of the story (I haven’t done this much yet, being so hungry for the next one), you can appreciate how deliberately the whole story has been quietly building all along.

The stories are about people. About people loving in tangled and imperfect ways, and coming up for air.

And I have been overloading the blog with photos lately but I feel the need to. Last time we were here, a year ago, I did not touch the blog – I was ill and exhausted with morning sickness, very nervous that my pregnancy would not work out, and on top of that had about a hundred exams to mark, which took up all my free time. But I miss the photographic record. I have gone back and put a couple of retrospective posts in, and may do a couple more. It is so nice, just for ourselves, to be able to click on a year or a month and look back on it.

And this time is so special. Watching my children play together – Felix still three years old but not for long, Antonia still my baby. They make each other laugh. They kick around on the mat or my bed together. Felix is so protective. He’s learning about numbers and adding up. In the car yesterday he said to me and Mum – ‘we have four in our family. Mummy, Daddy, Felix and Antonia. We are the luckiest, to have so many people.’ And he shared with us his extensive knowledge about babies: ‘babies’, he told us authoritatively, ‘are normally very soft’.

So there will be more photos heading your way. We are perhaps staying away from our home a little too long, but I am glad that there are couple of weeks left – to eat fish and chips in the park, watch Felix ride his bike, visit the aunties and the grandmas and some of my old friends, and go to the museum or the pool or the beach. Some days are tiring and jarring as happens with children. But I am so grateful for these days to slow down and be together. To come up for air.

 

Five months

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Darling Antonia is five months old. She’s just started saying dadadada and bla bla bla. She likes to squeak loudly and blows a very earnest raspberry. Sometimes she sounds like a pterodactyl or a creaky door. Sometimes it sounds just like she’s saying ‘hello’.

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She can sit by herself for brief moments and can manage a high chair, though she wasn’t sure about the swing. She has curls. More every day.

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We haven’t properly started solids yet but I guess it won’t be long – she is so curious when we eat – she reaches out and opens and closes her mouth like a fish. Yesterday evening when we were eating dinner she wouldn’t settle until I gave her a slab of mango to smear around her high chair tray, though I think she likes the peach she tasted a couple of days ago better.

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She’s getting much more discerning about who holds her, preferring people she knows. Mum, Dad, Michael, Grandma, Granddad, Felix and I get the best smiles. She never tires of Felix’s antics. The funniest thing she has ever seen in her life is Felix’s Dusty aeroplane flying and crashing into the bed, making a crunching sound. They cackled for a good half an hour.

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She knows her own name, and Felix’s, and mine. She still doesn’t like sleeping in the evening but will happily sleep in in the morning, which we are making the most of, given Felix’s newfound ability to entertain himself when he wakes up. She still opens her mouth wide and lunges at us to give us slobby kisses. Or try to eat us. Or something. And we love her so.

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Bouncing

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One of my very favourite things this trip has been seeing Felix interact with his second cousins and my friends’ children. He’s finally reached an age where they can scamper off on their own, chat for hours about who knows what, and sort out their own problems. This photo was taken on our second Christmas celebration a few days after Christmas.

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.

I thought I would try to link up with Jodi for this portrait series this year. At the moment it’s easy because Michael is taking so many gorgeous photos of the pair of them during our Australia holiday – we’ll see how I manage to keep it up.

Felix, nearly four, Antonia, nearly 5 months. I love the pensive moments Michael’s caught here – you can almost see them thinking.

Happy new year!

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I want to wish a rich and lovely new year to all who still stop by to read here.

We had a BBQ in the park on New Year’s Day. It was a pretty perfect day for Felix, involving a babyccino with his grandparents in the morning, sausages and ice cream and his ‘twin’ second cousin to play with in the adventure playground at lunch time, and another BBQ in the evening with even more ‘little guys’ (the kids of my old uni friends), a paddling pool, backyard swings and plastic trains. In this photo my two are laughing and loving and trying to eat each other up.

On New Years Day last year we walked along the causeway to Granite Island and I ate a huge piece of chocolate cake. Antonia was just a tiny flicker within me. I was exhausted, queazy, nervous and relieved, and looking forward to the year ahead. And what a year it has been. Time for another.

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Waves

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The days are tiring and lovely but what remains constant is the near impossibility of a moment to oneself. The moments lap in and out like waves, like tides.

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The children grow, one minute, one day at a time. They do things for the first time, or the last time, and they need me, despite disappearing for short periods into sleep or revery or delight in racing or dust or games on Grandma’s ipad.

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Antonia is a calm and happy baby but not one for sleeping long stretches. Felix is clever and challenging and (mostly) delightful – he feels so intensely and wants to understand everything. He can’t keep still for a moment.

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I’m enjoying being here and being able to share them with my family, who adore them. The weather is so gorgeous here, a lot of the time I feel that I never want to leave. And then I remember my little house, my own space, and know that at some point I will be ready to return.

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The week before Christmas we stayed with my parents at a beach house and it was so special – Felix had a ball.

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Walking along the edge of the surf, Antonia sleeping at my chest, Felix and Michael absorbed in their sand tunnels, I felt for a moment adrift in time – it could have been fifteen years ago, before I moved to Europe, before I’d met any of them. I walked away from Michael and Felix, along the beach. The waves hissed. Beaches are so timeless, sand water sky.

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And then I turned and walked back, to my beautiful, difficult, exuberant boys, the daughter I as yet barely know snuggly strapped to my chest.

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Grandma and Granddad’s house

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I’ve been really enjoying hanging out with the kids at my grandparents’ house. Mum says it’s strange to watch her grandson riding a bike along the same verandah she rode along as a child. It’s the same for me. So many childhood memories in this house and garden. And there I am, not a child any more but one of the mothers.

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How many babies have been cuddled on this lawn?

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How many barefoot races?

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How many children have helped with Christmas baking?

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Four months

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At four months old you are such a charming, snuggly, happy thing. I love you so. You’ve been rolling onto your tummy for a few weeks ago but just yesterday you worked out how to extract the arm that was getting stuck underneath you. You love to smile at people put not if they paw you before you’ve got to know them.

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You are so happy to snuggle with me in the ergo carrier and snooze peacefully there. You adore your brother and he adores you (though he threatened to pick you up with his toy crane).

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You’re not so keen on sleeping without frequent reassurance but that’s ok. You were weighed and measured when you were three months, and you were 8.2 kilos and 66.5cm – significantly heavier than Felix was at that age. We still call you little pudding. You make me happy. I’m so glad that you’re around.

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You’re pretty quiet but sometimes you sing to us and you laugh when you try to eat my nose.

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Photos

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Mum complained today that there were not enough photos. Antonia smiled at Mum on skype for the first time today. Up till now she’s only stared suspiciously at the computer, though she will smile at anyone who meets her eyes. It’s hard to find time to blog because my littlest darling is not a fan of early nights, and there are other things to do during the day.

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But I love her. I love her. I feel so happy at the moment, although not much is happening aside from very simple acts of cuddling and feeding children and (when time permits) straightening up the house.

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Antonia’s pretty happy too.

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Just now

The days have been sifting past so fast. In only two weeks we leave for Australia. A week and a half ago my brother and his girlfriend came to visit for the weekend and it was lovely but I didn’t get a single photo. (I took one of Jon, Antonia and I on the last day but didn’t realise there was no memory card in the camera.) Then last weekend we flew to Berlin. Michael’s Mum came up to spend a couple of days with us and meet Antonia. We didn’t venture far from the grungy paradise of Prenzlaueberg – groovy cafes, delicious cakes and imaginative playgrounds populated by quirkily dressed youngsters, half of whom seemed to be called Felix. It was so lovely seeing Monica meet Antonia. She kept saying what a peaceful, happy child she is, and it is true. It nearly broke my heart when she cried saying goodbye, and Antonia kept shooting her gentle, knowing, pleased little smiles back at her.

Felix had a ball as well. ‘Why is it dark?’ he said one evening. ‘Well,’ I said, quoting The Tiger Who Came to Tea, ‘We’re going to go out in the dark, and all the streetlights will be lit, and all the cars will have their lights on, and we’ll go down the road to a cafe.’ He was quite delighted with this state of affairs, especially as it involved pizza with ham. The restaurant didn’t serve ice cream (essential after pizza for a Felix) so we picked one up from a supermarket on the way back and ate it as we strolled the streets.

Felix was most taken with a bicycle riding past with blinking lights. He discussed it for a long time with Michael, so on the way home Michael bought him two bike lights. When we got back to Norway he played with them patiently all afternoon as he waited for it to get dark, before insisting that Michael retrieve his bike from the basement and get it ready. After dinner I went out with him in the freezing night, Antonia bundled up in her pram, Felix most insistent on acting out his dream of riding his bike in the dark. When we made it to the footpath on the main road he declared, ‘lets go to a cafe!’ ‘We can’t’, I said, ‘there are no cafe’s up here, it’s too far.’ ‘I can cycle long’, he said. We rode back home and made chocolate pudding instead.

To be completely honest the little guy has been a bit of a challenge lately, rather too quick to demand, and screech, and ignore. Some of our attempts for force compliance have failed miserably. My old trick of counting to five, giving him a chance to avoid some threat, has all but stopped working. He was home with us today though and it went a bit better – I tried harder to emphasise the positives, and say ‘of course you’re going to get out of the car now cos I can’t wait to tell Father Christmas how well you’ve listened to me today’. And I even managed to intervene a little in his terrible tendency to whine and to ask the same question over and over again, loudly…

Antonia is a dear little thing and is currently suffering her worst ever cold. This morning she caught Michael’s eye and told him very seriously all about it, before smiling cheerfuly and drifting off to sleep.