In the last light of 2019, I walked in a park in Germany. I walked back along suburban streets through the mist, as darkness hazed about me, and the church bells rang and rang. 2020 would be the year I, like so many others, didn’t see my parents, my grandparents, my brother, my cousins. It was hard not to see my parents. I felt it keenly in the summer, when they would usually come.

The year started slowly as we all succumbed, one by one, to a vicious cold. Felix was ill on his birthday. Julius kept falling asleep on armchairs and the floor. And then the sudden lockdown in March, after which point nobody was sick at all. I baked. We homeschooled Felix, and let the other two tumble around. I finished up teaching my class remotely, and graded my exams, but it was near impossible to concentrate on research. We walked, and were grateful for the spring. Once the schools and daycares opened again, I sat in the spare room revising (and revising) an article but my brain felt like sludge.

My beloved grandfather died, in Adelaide, and I watched his funeral online. I watched my cousins carry his casket, and read out some words I wrote for all of us.

Things opened up enough for us to hold garden birthday parties for Julius and for me, and one for Antonia in the forest, just before she started school in August. In the summer the kids and I rode bikes a lot. We went to a rollercoaster park with some friends (this was fantastic as the queues for the rides were all short as there was restricted entry). I missed my Mum.

In the autumn I was allowed into campus a bit, but taught my class over zoom (I definitely need to hone my skills here). I missed the classroom. I wrote, and wrote, and miraculously met all the deadlines (five of them) that had pooled towards the end of the year. I was pleased to finish everything. I was tired.

Julius grew from two and a half to three and half. He is eloquent, chatty and observant, and very delightful (except when he is displeased). He loves my friends, and gives them hugs, shows them things, and brings them things to eat. He has his own best friend at daycare, who he asked for every single day of the lockdown, and whom he still adores. Antonia turned six and started school, where she thrives. Felix turned nine and started fourth grade, which suits him.

And though we were mostly just here, I did get away a few times – a two day workshop trip with work before the lockdown, and a journey by night train with Felix to visit some dear friends who have moved to the north. And a glorious overnight hotel stay with Antonia to make up for it.

Christmas was quiet but lovely, but the kids have been staying up so late during the holidays that I am craving time alone. I thought I’d got them all down early tonight (after they all made it past midnight on new year’s eve), but the eldest is still complaining as I write, and it’s 11.15… I don’t know when we will make it back to Australia. I applied for citizenship for the children back in July but they keep extending the processing times and I haven’t heard a thing. I miss my family. In the last light of 2020, I watched the kids caper around the outdoor ice rink in the park in town. School starts up again soon, and my own teaching, and I’ll become a student again too – I’m taking a Norwegian class remotely. I think another solo walk is in order.


Summer holidays. Yesterday I bought Felix a new game for his nintendo. He gets to build a home on a little island, make friends and collect stuff. Antonia, quick to point out that it wasn’t fair if he got something and she did not, negotiated a set new set of Sylvanian family furniture – a desk, a piano, a telephone, little pens and books. She’s spent hours since arranging them in her doll’s house. Isn’t this the best house ever, she says, wouldn’t you want to live here? Julius settled on a little plastic helicopter with a button to press. Every time he visits a toyshop he wants to press buttons.

Last night Antonia chose a picture book for me to read about Home. It’s filled with illustrations of homes, some fantastic, some realistic. ‘What’s an apartment?’ She asked. Like C lives in, I say. ‘It would be a bit challenging to live in an apartment,’ she said. ‘It would be different,’ I said, ‘you’d get used to it.’ ‘But there’s not books,’ she said, ‘does C have books?’ ‘She has books,’ I said. ‘And if we lived in an apartment, we could take lots of books.’

Julius talked about home when I read his book, too, but I can’t remember why. He said you could plant beans in the garden and grow a magic beanstalk. Would you like a magic beanstalk, I asked. No, he said.



Julius is walking now. He took his first steps at 14 months, and now at 16 months he has finally begun to walk more than he crawls. And he is talking. He has many words and he copies everything. Up, down, done, water (bater), button, shoe, hat, arm, hand, Mama, Dadda, door, shut, hello, byebye… He says nana for banana and for food in general, and for breastmilk. It also means nose. (Nase in German.) When he isn’t talking he makes up little thrumming, rhythmic songs: hhlooom, dah! dooooom, dah! And he has discovered trains. He points at Felix’s bedroom, where the trains live, and says, hopefully, toot toot!


My Mum has just spent three weeks with us which was just so lovely. I’ve raided her phone snaps to illustrate this post. Autumn is a gorgeous time of year here and it was special to spend it with her. We took the kids away for a couple of days to at town on the Swedish coast, and wandered around standing stones and bronze age carvings, and ate a lot of cake at a fabulous bakery.


The world is orange and yellow and grey. Today was filled with soft, misty rain. I joined a friend and her boys for pizza this evening and then we went swimming at the local pool. It was nice to do something different and watch the kids fool around. Julius was delighted to sit on the edge of the pool, watch me count to three, and then throw himself into my arms. Immediately he would demand ‘chair chair!’ and I would sit him back on the side of the pool and we would do it again.


I am enjoying work but the transitions between work and home are strange. I teach on Tuesdays, and have Wednesdays at home with the little kids. Usually I have both Antonia and Julius but I sent Antonia to barnehage today as I was tired. It was quite a novelty to have time to concentrate on Julius. He is so beautiful.


Antonia had a dream recently that went like this. Felix was flying. She wasn’t allowed to fly because she wasn’t big enough. But she WAS big enough. And then I told her did she want to do something fun, but it was just to have a bath! And she DIDN’T WANT to have a bath!


Reading to Antonia in the evenings is one of the best bits of my day. She has a lot of picture books but she always thinks carefully about which ones she wants and we really do get through most of them on rotation. We’ve also been reading Milly Molly Mandy recently, which is fantastic, and Pippi Longstocking, and the Lotta books. I’m reading Danny the Champion of the World to Felix at the moment and we’re enjoying that too.


Julius has just started showing interest in books too. He likes Toddle Waddle by Julia Donaldson but his favourite is a little board book Michael bought for Felix many years ago called I like Trains. Felix was obsessed with trains between the ages of 18 months and five years, and it feels odd and lovely to get them all out again… Antonia will occasionally pick them up but she doesn’t seek them out.



Oh it has been quiet over here. Julius is one now. And summer has come. It arrived with a blast about two months ago, and apart from a brief, rainy flicker, has stayed. We have swum in the fjord more times than I can count. The big kids jump of the pier and bob around (Antonia wears floaties) and Julius sits by the shore and mucks about with the sand. I can even go in myself – he’s happy enough to wait at the edge.

I’m nearing the end of a week of solo parenting which coincided with the first week of the summer holidays. So a bit weary. It was all going quite well until Antonia got a fever and vomited all over her car seat. Of course the other two got it too – they had cheerfully been sharing ice creams for days. I cleaned her car seat and the seat of the car but forgot about the inside of the door, so in a minute I have to go and sort that out but sitting here and writing is so much more appealing. It’s 11pm already but our days have shifted later. The big two put themselves to bed after a ‘movie night’ this evening, while I was attempting to settle Julius for the fourth time.

My garden is dry and neglected and there are piles of clean washing heaped about the house.

There’s more to say and show you but need to get out now before the last of the orange sunset fades.

Walking on the fjord


About a month ago, our little corner of the fjord had been frozen for weeks so we went out walking on it. I was a bit nervous, but there were a couple of other people out there, ice fishing, and the previous weekend I’d watched from our window a man skating the length of it. Felix went first, then Antonia, and finally I joined them with Julius in the carrier. It was a very strange feeling, seeing the land curve around us, and stepping on the hint of transparent grey in thick ripples under the thin covering of snow. It seemed we were walking on a cloud.



Antonia aged three and a half is a glorious little creature. She was home sick today (I wrote this a couple of weeks ago), but was recovering well, so in between a couple of long sessions of watching cartoons, we did a puzzle and played lotto, and she happily stuck little plastic pins in to a board as I put Julius to sleep, making up stories as she went. Felix was out late so we had time to kill after dinner as well, and it really was so delightful. We had to read The skeletons and the Ghost train, and then we had to BE the skeletons riding on the ghost train (Antonia opted to be the dog). Then she wanted to give me a dancing lesson, and instructed me to find some soft ballet music. I have an old ipod with a very limited selection of music on it, so I went for Suzanne Vega’s Small Blue Thing, which she was perfectly happy with. Julius was captivated (he really was) by our interpretative dance – he even tried to join in. Then she wanted to go camping with her sleeping bag and a yoga mat. To begin with she was very annoyed that Julius was so interested in the yoga mat. She tried making a ‘line’ of toys to demarcate his side and hers, but after a while accepted my explanation that that just doesn’t work with babies. So after that we were all able to coexist quite nicely, lying on the floor next the play kitchen. I had to lie down and then wake up, and Antonia would serve me breakfast in bed, which I would share with Julius. It was just so nice.

Last week I accidentally read her a rather morbid Norwegian picture book in the library, and after that we had to take it in turns being ‘dead Grandpa’. She did a rather good impression!

This evening she covered herself with a blanket and pretended to be ‘treasure’ on a beach – I had to dig her up and try to take her home with me, and she told me each time, ‘no, I live here’. This was great as Julius could join in. ‘Treasure can’t talk’ says Felix. But this one can.

A little walk


I took these pictures on a little walk last week or the week before. It was a beautiful afternoon – half way between snowing and melting, which usually means slush, but that day meant powdery, glistening white-green light. Julius learnt to crawl this week – just on his tummy for now, but faster every day. The world is changing, changing.


8 months


My dear you are ridiculously cute right now. This week you have learnt to clap and cut your third tooth. You are very pleased about participating in meal times. You keep a close eye on your siblings, especially when they are up to mischief. I think you are taking notes.


You are closer and closer to crawling – you’ve started rocking back and forth on hands and knees, and backing yourself into all sorts of corners.


The first time you saw my Mum on skype since we came back from Australia you cried and cried (just like the first time you ever saw her on skype, in September), but you got used to it quickly and now you’re always so happy to see her.


You have a pretty exciting life with these guys around. Michael has started carrying you around upside down, which you think is brilliant, though I’ve had to make it very clear to Felix that it’s not ok for him to do that too!


Learning to Read

Felix is learning to read now – he’s been at school for half a year and since Christmas he’s been able to decode words we have started reading together for practice.

I wasn’t sure what to read with him to begin with, and had a scout around bookshops in Australia. He loves a phonics workbook, so we’ve been working through a couple of those. I got hold of some Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton books with titles like ‘Ed and Ted and Ted’s Dog Fred’, and they’ve been great – lots of repetition and very silly. And my Grandma gave Felix Sally Rippin’s ‘Hey Jack! That’s Another Big Book’ for Christmas, which is just brilliant – Felix relates well to the characters and situations, and enjoys reading such a big, serious looking book. I told him we should wait half a year or so to read it, but he was adamant that we start now, and he’s doing really well, as long as I help him with some of the unfamiliar words. There are a lot of words to learn! He’s learning to read in two languages at once, which complicates matters further…

I’ve ordered some Julia Donaldson phonics readers, and some National Geographic level 1 readers, but they haven’t come yet. His school doesn’t give homework, so I’ve had to find things myself.

I feel a bit guilty for not pushing him harder to learn the alphabet when he was younger, so Antonia will shortly find herself to be drowning in alphabet books. She can already recognise quite a few of the letters.

It’s not my natural inclination to ‘teach’ children lots of things – I prefer to observe and see what they come up with, but I’m starting to see that I need to be involved in this. So far I make sure I listen to him read a couple of pages every day, and then try a little bit to help him learn some of the common words at other times… But really I’ve only been doing this for a couple of weeks, since we came back from Australia, so we’re right at the beginning and there’s lots for both of us to learn. I wonder if I should be listening to him read in Norwegian as well?? He spends a lot more time on that at school. We’ll see…

A year in books

Last year I posted a plea for recommendations for books to read aloud to Felix, the response to which you can read here. I ordered a great swathe of them, we found a few at the library, and collected a few more as the year went by. We read:

Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator


James and the Giant Peach

George’s Marvellous Medicine

J.K. Rowling : The Harry Potter series, right up to the middle of book 5. Michael read these to Felix, and I was worried they would get too intense for him, but he did so well! I was inspired to read them all to keep up with them both (I had never gotten around to it earlier), and what a revelation that was. So. Much. Fun. Michael read them to him all through the summer holidays, but once Felix started school the intensity was a bit much, so we’ve put them aside for now.

Milly Molly Mandy. I got a big book of collected stories. Felix quite liked them but to be honest as adults we found them a bit boring… Antonia might get into them soon I guess.

Tashi. Antonia and Felix both loved this – I got The Big Book of Tashi which contained quite a few stories – I think I’ll get hold of the next one, too.

Astrid Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking (Soooo good.)

Pippi and the South Seas

Pippi goes Abroad

Emil’s Clever Pig (Felix and I just adored Emil – must get hold of the others)

Karlson on the Roof

Lotta’s Bike

Lotta says No, and I think one more Lotta book. (Antonia and I loved these too. I recognise Antonia in Lotta!)

The 13 story treehouse and sequels. Felix thinks these are the best thing ever.

Laura Ingills Wilder: The Little House in the Big Woods

Farmer Boy

The House at Plum Creek (we’re half way through this one – Felix couldn’t find The Little House on the Prairie but I’ve located it now so we’ll read that next) These are great to read aloud. Just mesmerising.

There were probably a few more. Michael has done the bulk of the reading, but I’ve now instigated a ‘taking turns’ bedtime rule, so we alternate reading to Felix and Antonia. Which is nice.


Five months

five months

Julius is very nearly five months old and I am just soaking in having a little baby still, who needs to be carried everywhere and can’t sit up by himself, because it’s not going to last for long. He’s only rolled over completely once in each direction, but he’s very proficient at rolling to his side and twisting around. He is still such a cuddly, friendly, agreeable little thing. Everyone keeps saying how big he’s getting and I suppose they’re right, but he’s still my little baby. He spends time every day strapped to my chest, and often has a nap there, and just adores it.

Felix is thriving at school and Antonia is happy in barnehage, though I can always tell when she’s getting a little tired because the noise levels increase considerably! It’s Saturday today and I had two pregnant friends over for lunch, and we went to a Halloween party with some of the kids’ barnehage friends this evening, and it was a nice day but we were all absolutely shattered by the end of it. I made quiche for the first time in my life (cheated and bought pre-made pastry) and it was delicious. The kids did a lot of watercolour painting on paper bags.

Michael has been away a fair bit. When I have to put all three of them to bed, Julius listens to Antonia’s stories, and I kiss Antonia and leave the room and she falls asleep within a minute, then he listens to Felix’s book chapter, then I feed him to sleep next to Felix in my big bed. It doesn’t work to put him to sleep before the big kids. He’s a pretty patient listener already!

I’ve been taking too many pictures on my phone and just posting them to facebook, I’ll try to get a few more over here soon.



This afternoon the three kids and I walked down to our little beach. Michael had just returned from America and needed to crash for a while, and I was feeling quite chirpy and proud of myself for surviving my first six days alone with them. Antonia wore her new pink gumboots and carried a bucket and spade, Julius fussed a little in the carrier, and Felix loped along beside us, singing a song that was mostly harmless but occasionally a little cheeky towards Antonia. Nevertheless, high spirits prevailed. It’s autumn. We looked at the mushrooms. They are innumerable. Brown, white, orange, red; tiny, shiny, crumbling, smooth, wrinkled, huge. That’s the kind that fairies hide under, Felix said. Antonia slipped now and then on the wet rocks.

At the beach Felix hurled stones into the water. Antonia, however, immediately stripped off in order to have a swim. It was much too cold for the rest of us, but she paddled about bravely, pleased as punch. Felix wrote his name in the sand. Everything was grey. The sky, the water, the forest beyond. And then, very gently, it started to rain. The little drops circled out in the water, all over the water, as far as I could see, and it was the prettiest thing. Felix threw sticks out into the water and Antonia paddled out to fetch them. Then the rain grew heavier and I decided we should go back. Antonia’s clothes had gotten wet and they were difficult to put on again – Julius cried in protest as I bent over to help her. For the first part of the climb back through the forest A and J were both in tears, but we persisted. I promised Antonia a warm bath and Felix a hot chocolate when we got home. As we reached the top of the forest path, Antonia said proudly – we did it! And we did, oh yes we did.

Three months of cuddles

Dear Julius,

You rolled over for the first time this evening. Front to back. You were lying on your playmat, wearing only your diaper after your bath. I’d just finally got around to combing out your cradle cap. So you were lying on your tummy, tipping further and further over, and whoosh, you did it. You looked a little shocked and started to cry. Michael and I were both watching. I picked you up and cuddled you, and we both said ‘Well done Julius, good job!’ And you bobbed your little head and threw Michael a smile.

There. A milestone recorded. I’m afraid you won’t have so many of these written down as your big brother has, but neither does your sister. That’s just the way of it. But if it’s any consolation, you have twice as much adoration directed your way, as all four of us are fairly smitten with you. Whenever we go anywhere with your siblings, everyone always tells them how lucky they are to have a little brother like you, and it is true.

On Tuesday you were 13 weeks and precisely three months old. You had some vaccinations on Wednesday so I even have stats – 7.3kg, 65.5cm, so you’ve grown ten centimetres and just over three kilograms since you were born. You are a cheerful, cuddly, friendly little thing. You love to gaze in our eyes and tell us stories. You love to sleep in the wrap. You’ve just started cheekily hiding your face in my shoulder when people look at you, then peeping back out at them and grinning. You did it with Michael the other night, over and over, laughing ‘Heh!’ each time. If you’ve been crying and I begin to feed you, you utter a sigh of relief – ‘hoooh!’ before getting down to business.

We mostly call you Juju. We sing ‘Hey Jude’ to you. Felix has a funny little rhyme that goes ‘Juju is fast, he needs a bath.’ Darling boy, we love you so.

Summer holidays


Wow. Those summer holidays went by in a flash. Six weeks in the company of these gorgeous, challenging munchkins. I must admit I was (rightfully) a little apprehensive, but there have been a lot of fun moments, and I’ve enjoyed having my parents along for most of it. Highlights included Astrid Lingren’s World, in Sweden, pictured above. Felix loved the castles and Antonia loved meeting Pippi and exploring all the little houses.


Spending so much time together had its challenges but sometimes they play together well which is sweet to see. Tomorrow Felix starts school, and this evening the two of them played at going to school together, taking their backpacks and lunch boxes onto the trampoline, and hanging up their umbrellas on the trampoline net. Felix even made a book for Antonia – stapling pages together with his new stapler, and filling them with robots and big letter As. He said to Mum that it would have to be a picture book, not a writing book, as he didn’t know how to write yet, and she said that would be fine. He’s quite motivated now to learn to read – I hope it goes smoothly for him.



These three

We’re a week into the kids’ summer holidays. I must admit I was a little apprehensive (and it has had its moments) but it has been truly lovely to spend some proper time with these guys. Julius is a cheerful little thing who’s happy to fit in as long as he gets lots of cuddles. He loves to look deeply into your eyes and coo and smile, but it’s difficult to photograph his smile as he distrusts phones and cameras… Antonia is her delightful, energetic, engaging self. She says she’d like to do summer holidays on her own soon. ‘What would you do if you had holidays on your own?’ I asked her. ‘Take a walk in the forest. Climb a tree.’ Felix spends most of his down time building lego. He made a ‘music shop’ this morning, complete with a piano. And last night he was dancing, very creatively, by himself for half an hour, to Rick Astley’s ‘Never gonna give you up’, which he specially requested Michael to put on. I took the photo above just after he’d finished, his face flushed and hair tousled with exertion… These little beings are ridiculously hard work and ridiculously amazing.


There is something about having a small baby that intensifies moments, and puts me in a contemplative mood. When the chaos pauses, and everyone is asleep…

It’s been hot here today. Quite hot. I still feel sticky now, and it’s 10pm, though the air over the fjord is cooling slightly. We didn’t make it to the beach, though we thought about it. I wasn’t sure about the ten minute (or 40 minute, if you factor in Antonia) walk with the baby hot and sticky against my skin in the wrap… We went to the shopping centre instead, all five of us, and got an ice cream from McDonalds. When we got home JJ and I had a nap together, and then we bumbled around outside with the others for the rest of the afternoon. For the past couple of days JJ has been quite unsettled late afternoon and early evening, and it is an interesting juggle keeping up with the other two and trying to keep him happy.

Things I want to remember:

Felix coasting around on Antonia’s blue tricycle (it used to be his), strumming his brand new white ukelele.

Antonia sitting down on the floor in the middle of the mall, telling me breezily – ‘I’ll just take my time.’

Felix’s beautiful wide green eyes when he tells me something very serious about Ninjago or Harry Potter.

Antonia’s squishy, sturdy little body as she hugs me tight as I carry her in from the car, or as she potters around the deck half naked, streaked in melted ice-block.

Julius’s serious, trusting little face as he looks up from my arms as I pace him around and he stops crying for a few minutes. The way the pace of his breath changes as he approaches sleep.

Babies make you think about mortality. I remember when Felix was born the thought of him or ANYONE dying was suddenly absolutely abhorrent. It felt like it should be impossible. I haven’t had that feeling in quite the same way ever again. And yet…

Everything is in bloom here right now. Recklessly, fully, absolutely. You can almost see the grass grow. It is all so lush. When I was doing my evening walks with Mum, before Julius was born, new flowers had opened every evening. The lupins appeared from nowhere, huge flocks of them. ‘It’s amazing’, I commented. ‘Yes,’ said Mum, ‘I suppose they don’t have much time so they need to get on with it.’ And she’s right. Summer and winter feel like different countries here.

I had a baby, another one. And right now my body feels – full, I guess, round and soft. (A lot less round than it was a month ago, but you know what I mean. I’m definitely a few kilos heavier than when I got pregnant.) But I had a baby. In a few years, I won’t be able to. For some reason this makes me feel a bit like the flowers, and the trees. There is summer, there is winter. There are beginnings, there are endings, there are beginnings…

I watch my family getting older. My parents, my grandparents, my children, myself. It is really very strange – ordinary, and beautiful, and sad, and right. Michael has been reading a book about the ways in which people a very long time ago thought about bodies of men and women. It is strange to think about how ideas and images and words survive from long ago, how they are preserved, or lost, or feed each other in long chains. And our bodies survive too – through birth and death, through renewal and decay. How we are linked with people a thousand, two thousand, three thousand years ago, not just through reading what they wrote or gazing upon or touching what they made, but in our cells, our very blood, our breath. It is really very strange.


To be honest, one of the most challenging aspects of the past couple of months has been the energy expended in encouraging sibling harmony. There has been competitiveness, some teasing, and rather a lot of noise. So I thought I’d better write this down as evidence that it can be different. This evening was challenging because Julius was waking ten minutes after I put him down each time and demanding to be settled again. At one point all three of them were screaming while I hastily tried to hang out some washing. Felix had asked me to make him a paper plane and tie a string to it, and so Antonia wanted one too, and they both wanted theirs FIRST, and so it went on. But, after an ice-block procured by their father, a curious thing happened. I was preoccupied with Julius and Michael left them alone. Felix was digging around in the cupboards in the hallway to find his schoolbag, and also found his and Antonia’s pull along travelling cases. And they started to play a most marvellous game together, packing their bags, going to the airport, getting in the aeroplane, and visiting ‘Grandma’s house’. They bent the rules somewhat by pretending our car was the aeroplane, and the episode ended in tears when Antonia accidentally turned the radio on full volume and panicked, but all the same! There was no fighting, teasing or competition, just encouragement, connection and joint imagination. ‘Wait for me, Feli!’ I heard Antonia say at one point. ‘I am I am’, he assured her. And a few minutes later I heard, ‘I’m waiting for you, Feli!’

The camaraderie continued for the rest of the evening, as they decided together which book we should read (Tashi, one book they both love). They didn’t want to have a shower but I managed to steer them in there by saying – ‘you guys are getting along so well this evening, would you like to have a shower together?’ And they did. And they lay quietly to listen to Tashi, Antonia on the bottom of their new bunk bed, and Felix on the top, as I read and fed Julius to sleep for the umpteenth time.  Felix kissed Julius and me goodnight, and as he left (to listen to Michael read Harry Potter before he went to sleep) I said – do you have a kiss for Antonia too? He hesitated, and tried to get away with blowing her a kiss, but I encouraged him a bit more and he planted a kiss on her leg.

Big kids


I’m so proud of my biggest ones. In the weeks (days, in fact) since Julius came home, Antonia has toilet trained herself (it just clicked for her, all of a sudden), and Felix has lost his third tooth, graduated from barnehage, and achieved his 25 meter backstroke and freestyle badge in swimming. The day Julius was born one of Antonia’s carers made her a ‘big sister’ medallion, and she was so proud!

She simultaneously got rather fond of the pretend pacifier that came in a bag of doll-baby stuff I gave her as a present, and for a few days spoke an odd mixture of English, Norwegian and baby talk, so sometimes she likes to be a baby too, which is understandable. But she is suddenly so much stronger and more coordinated – and can managed complicated climbing feats and hop on the trampoline like a big kid, not a toddler.

They both adore the little one, showering him with kisses and smothering him with hugs. Felix says he’s the best baby in the world, he’s just so cute!

We took these last two pictures at Felix’s ‘graduation’ evening at barnehage. They had a bbq down by a lovely lake and it was very special. He has two weeks left now, then summer holidays, then school. Antonia starts in the big kid class in barnehage after the summer holidays, so there are changes ahead for everyone.



I’m looking out at the red sunset over the fjord. I meant to go to bed early but suddenly it’s 11 already. Baby J will wake soon, I guess, you never know, and demand some milk. With his arrival it feels like so much is shifting. Sometimes I feel I’m floundering around with little to hold on to, but right now, looking out upon the water, it feels like our house is a big ship, travelling in the right direction, and I’m sailing.

My Mum is here and she is so amazing. It’s meant these past two and a half weeks have been so much smoother than they would have been without her. For the first ten days I did not feel up to much, and did not leave the house or get out of my pyjamas. And then suddenly I felt better, so I have been trialling things. Laundry. Cooking dinner. Picking the kids up from barnehage. I’ve only done that last one once, on Friday last week, and Mum was with me.

We’d just been grocery shopping with Julius. He seemed quite happy so I thought it would be ok, and was looking forward to introducing him to Antonia’s carers. But as soon as we arrived, he started fussing, so I had to take him out of the pram. I carried him into Antonia’s class, and all the little kids rushed to have a look at him, and her carer cooed – oh, she looks like Antonia! But he was crying and wanted milk, so we went out to the hallway, where I perched next to Antonia’s spot, breastfeeding. Meanwhile my Mum had rounded up Felix, who had been around the back outside. He was edgy and tired and wanted to leave immediately. Mum started gathering up some of Antonia’s stuff that I wanted to take home. Then Antonia needed the toilet, so I handed Julius, who started fussing again immediately, to Mum, and went with Antonia back inside. When we came out to the hallway again Felix was complaining loudly about us taking so long. He’d knocked over the neat pile of Antonia’s stuff that Mum had made on the ground. I found a bag to put it all in, and in my enthusiasm accidentally stuffed in another kid’s shoes. (They were the same design as Antonia’s previous pair, and her current pair had been left at home as she’d peed on them yesterday by mistake.) Finally we were ready to leave, and Felix started wailing about how he never got to sit next to Julius in the car, and it wasn’t fair, and I had to threaten to take away the ipad for the evening in order to get him in the car. He then started begging for sweeties, and instead I promised them both an iceblock for when we got home (it was hot). So, yeah. If Mum hadn’t been there to hold the squalling baby it would have been even less pretty.

Today we went the birthday party of a friend of Felix, the son of one of my closest friends. It was at a play-centre a forty minute drive away, and I was quite pleased with myself that I had managed to arrive (I thought) exactly on time. Michael reminded us to take the presents with us (I’d forgotten them when we went to a different kids’ party the week before, and had had to turn around to pick them up). But I had remembered the times wrong and we were AN HOUR LATE! It all turned out ok and Felix was in time for cake and my friends were understanding, but I felt so silly. For a moment I felt like bursting into tears but thankfully I didn’t.

So. Stormy waters now and then. But sailing.

Baby Julius is born

I expected him to come late. Oh, third baby, third babies are tricky, you never know, everyone said. But Mum didn’t book her ticket to arrive until I was 40+2. I went on maternity leave at 37 weeks, and I wasn’t ready for him at that point anyway – there was so much to do! I tidied up the spare room so Mum would have somewhere to sleep, I cleaned up my own room and put the bassinet together. I spent most of my second week painting Felix and Antonia’s room a pearly sky-blue as the walls in there were charcoal grey which was too gloomy. I knitted his baby blanket. I walked most nights past fields and trees and listened to the birds.

Nevertheless, as the due date sails past, you can’t help but get edgy. I had hoped for a quiet week with Mum before he arrived, and I got it, more or less, though two public holidays at the end of the week impacted the level of ‘quiet’. On Friday, when I was 41+1, we all went down to the seaside town of Stromstad in the morning, and had coffee and cake, and walked around the harbour, looking at the boats in the sunshine. It was one of those magic little strolls where both kids were engaged, and they chatted about which boats they wished they had. Antonia said she was going to build a girl boat, only for girls, and she would be the captain. Felix wanted to sit on the sunny bench looking out over the harbour, and we cuddled.

I was tired and uncomfortable. We waited and waited. Finally, on Monday May 29th, at 41+4, it was time for my overdue check-up at the hospital. The CTG was fine. The ultrasound was fine. The doctor examined me, giving me a ‘stretch and sweep’ in the process. It was profoundly uncomfortable. I think with Antonia I’d had the ‘stretch’ but not the ‘sweep’. She told me I was only 2cm dilated. She said it might happen on its own, but it might not happen in time, and booked me in to begin an induction on Wednesday. They would start with a balloon, she said, and probably send me home, and I’d have to come back in for the gel on Thursday morning. I was a little disappointed. At my check with Antonia I’d been four centimetres, and the doctor had been confident that it would start soon, which it did. I had hoped to avoid induction. Partly because the thought of it was a little scary – deliberately beginning all that pain, but mostly because I wanted to experience again that magical moment, the gift, the surprise, the wondering – oh, is it now?

After my overdue check with Antonia, I knew she would come soon. This time I wasn’t sure. After our hospital visit, we called in for lunch with my dear friend Margrethe and her baby boy Alfred. She had baked ‘come out baby’ brownies, as we traditionally eat cake together the day before our babies are born. They were delicious. I had two.

At home I lay down for a bit before the kids came home, and then Antonia came to find me and bounced all over me. In the evening I felt tired and a bit crampy, but this was not entirely new, and I didn’t feel any clear signs. I read Antonia her books and watched her fall asleep. I felt too listless to knit. I rallied myself to go walking again with Mum, past the fields, through the forest, but we didn’t do the whole route. Like every night, the grass was visibly longer, and new flowers had uncurled.

As I went to bed myself, earlier than usual, I wondered if things would start happening, but I was just not sure. Everything seemed to settle, and I went to sleep. I woke a couple of times, as you do when you are pregnant, and there was nothing, so I resolved myself to waking in my own bed in the morning, once again. And then, at quarter to two, the strangest thing happened. I must have been only half asleep, because I felt it so clearly, A very sharp kick, and then a very clear leak. I started awake, shocked. In my last two labours, my waters hadn’t broken till the baby was nearly crowning. This was different. For a moment I contemplated what to do – I was alone, as Michael was sleeping upstairs. Then I lunged for the bathroom, dripping as I went, grabbed two towels and sat down on the floor against the bed. Oh, I thought. Oh.

It felt like a very singular situation. I sent a message to my facebook group of women having babies in May. Some said ring the hospital. Some said wait. I still felt quite sleepy, so I clambered back into bed, clutching my towels. There was a gentle contraction. And another. I decided to time them before I rang the hospital. They weren’t that frequent – six to ten minutes apart, but I remembered how quickly things had happened last time, and the hospital is about forty minutes away, so I rang. By now it was about 2.30. They agreed I should come in, so I went upstairs to wake Michael. He went to make a cup of tea. We’ll have to leave quite soon, I said. After a brief flurry of packing the car, a third of a cup of tea each, and five long minutes to locate Michael’s glasses, we were off.

It was night time, but it wasn’t quite dark. The contractions were not bad yet, and they were well spaced. When they came I tapped at my thighs, as I had when Antonia was born, and they were fine. ‘We’ve got this’, I said to Michael, trying to convince myself more than anything. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘you’ll be fine. You’ll be great.’ I looked out at the shining string of streetlights on the freeway through the haze of the rain.

The hospital carpark was nearly deserted. As Michael went to get the parking ticket, I stood and watched the tiny raindrops glinting and floating in the beams of the car’s headlights. I walked back and forth for a bit. The air smelled so good. We could hear birds singing all around. I would have quite happily stayed there for an hour or so, I think, listening to the birds and walking in the quiet rain, but I took a deep breath, and we went inside.

Because we had left early, this was so different to Antonia’s birth, when I could barely walk and certainly couldn’t speak by the time we got there. We wandered in and chatted to the midwives as they got the room set up for us. It had an antiseptic smell after the lovely rain outside, but I resigned myself to it and felt grateful to be in a place where I was safe. I felt slightly silly to have come so early but the midwives assured me that it was okay to spend a few hours in hospital before the baby was born. They hooked up the CTG and I lay on the bed for half an hour while they checked the baby was ok. When the contractions came I tapped the sheets to distract myself. They were still quite mild. After that they checked my dilation. 4 cm! This cheered me considerably. They recommended I have an enema though, so I lay on my side for another ten minutes while we waited for it to work. I scratched at the edge of the sheets to get through the contractions, breathing through them, focussing on the little stripes on the light on the ceiling. One of my midwives massaged my lower back and it felt blissful.

After that the contractions sped up. But it wasn’t like the other births. Felix’s birth had been a marathon, and Antonia’s had been filled with energy and fierceness. This felt – quiet in comparison, almost gentle, the contractions imperceptibly becoming more formidable – sliding along rather than accosting me. I sat on the fit-ball for a little while and felt myself beginning to vocalise very gently, while I puffed out air through my cheeks. And then I made a dive for the bed, and lay on my side. I was tired. I didn’t want to stand. I was cold too, and the midwives wrapped warm towels around my shoulders. I looked up for the light again but sadly had taken off my glasses at some point so couldn’t focus on it any more. I felt myself getting a bit louder. And then I felt sick. Michael had to help me explain to the midwives that I needed a sick bag – there was some language confusion. Being sick in the middle of a contraction is not the most pleasant thing. After that there were a couple of strong contractions that I Aaaahed and yelled my way through. I was able to remind myself that it wouldn’t be long… And then suddenly they were telling me to push.

I was shocked. I didn’t feel quite ready. Push, they kept saying, you need to push NOW. Later they told me his heart-rate had dropped to 60, hence the rush, but they didn’t tell me at the time. With Antonia they had told me to wait a bit, and she had practically pushed herself out, so I was surprised. ‘I can’t do it!’ I said over and over again. ‘Yes you can! You need to! When you have a contraction, PUSH!’ Michael coached me too. ‘Come ON!’ he said. They flipped me back on to my back. Okay, I thought, if you insist. I could feel a very sharp ring of pain that did not want me to push toward it but I realised there was no way around it. I pushed as hard and as many times as I could through a couple of contractions. Pushing a baby out is strange as it feels so ineffectual. I was concentrating intently but they interrupted me – ‘breathe!’ they reminded. Hah, I thought, I don’t really have time for that, but obliged and took a little breath. Michael said later I was getting a little blue in the face. And then his head came out, and then the rest of him, and he was here.

5.58 am. We’d been at the hospital for a couple of hours, and the entire labour had lasted for four. Julius flopped on my belly and I stroked him while the midwives wiped him and me down as he pooed all over my belly. He made some noises but wasn’t really crying. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his little face. He looked like Felix, he looked like Antonia. After a while they let Michael cut the cord. I cuddled my baby while the midwives stitched up a little tear – it turned out it wasn’t a bad one, but I wondered, as they seemed to take forever. I sang a silly nursery rhyme – one of Antonia’s favourites, about sleeping, hopping bunnies – to distract myself from the stinging. Then they helped Julius latch on, and he had a good drink, and it felt amazing. They moved us to another room, and I held and held him. His movements were so familiar to me from the months he had spent inside me – the shifting of his back, his long feet, his sharp little heels. He was here. He was here. He was here.

baby juliusbaby julius2

Felix’s birth story is here, and Antonia’s is here.

What is it about the moon?

I’m 37+5 weeks now (well, for another half an hour, it’s late here), and I had my last day of work on Friday. I’d been feeling exhausted and floaty and not great, and I kind of wish I’d finished up earlier, but there it is. I feel much better now. I can focus, a little, though it still feels like there are way too many things to do. Monday was a holiday here, and today Felix had a visit to his new school, so I’ve actually only had one day of leave to myself so far. I want to NEST but so many corners of our house are in chaos since we cleared out the last of the stuff from our old house, and we actually have to throw a lot of it away to clear space to tidy everything up. And I can’t do heavy lifting. And our hall downstairs is clogged by an enormous disassembled bookshelf that I insisted we needed to bring back from the old house even though the new owners were quietly hoping we’d leave it there. I thought it would be perfect for the kids’ room. And it probably will, but we can’t erect it till we PAINT the kids’ room, because it will look terrible with the current charcoal colour on the walls in there. And I want to paint their room anyway, and have even bought the paint, but should this job be first on my list? Should I pay someone else to do it? Should I clean the bathroom and catch up on laundry instead? Not sure.

I need to buy a chest of drawers so I can wash and unpack our old baby clothes. I have been aware of this for months. I chose one last week and went to buy it on Tuesday, but it turns out you have to order it, and it takes three weeks. I asked about another one that I liked less – same deal. So now I have to check other furniture shops. Maybe on Friday. Maybe I can clear one of my own drawers for the baby in the meantime and at least get some clothes and blankets ready there… Maybe I could even begin to pack some sort of hospital bag…

I need to put the bassinet together. I need to buy a new mattress for it. I found some in the baby shop today but need to check the measurements. I feel this great buzz of undirected energy, but then I notice the kitchen is a mess, and stacking the dishwasher almost undoes me. Bending over things is not my favourite. I turn it on, then have a cup of tea and a piece of toast and blueberries even though I know they will give me horrific heartburn. They do.

You see I’m convinced I’ll get close to 42 weeks, as I did with the other two, but there are always moments when you wonder otherwise… (Sitting up in the green recliner at midnight with fierce Braxton Hicks, for example. But I remember this happened with Antonia too, and led nowhere…)

I’ve started walking religiously every evening as I did with Antonia. I started a little later this time, because it’s only just become light enough to walk in the evenings once the kids are asleep, and the weather in April was horrible. Freezing rain horrible. But May so far has been lovely and I’ve got myself into a rhythm for the past week or so. Of course we’ve moved house, so the walk is different. And it is the beginning of spring, not the end of summer. I walk up a hill, past farmhouses and fields, until I reach a paddock of horses. Two reddish, two brown, one white. A bit further down the road, I turn left, past more fields, and the sky. I see three deer in a field. I see a hare, bounding. I see a goose, honking and flapping. Most of all, there is birdsong, constant, a sea of it, lapping in from the forest behind the fields. The sky, blue and pink and orange, sometimes charcoal as I return, is silhouetted by bare trees. The first leaves are just appearing now – a haze of green upon the birches, so delicate it really does look like mist, as though someone had breathed green dust all over them. And the moon. Sickle when I began, now just an edge over half full. I look up at it – over the fields, over the road, though the trees. My body feels round and the moon dreams of roundness. When, I wonder. When you have waxed and waned again? I cannot keep my eyes off her. As I tramp down the final hill she shines back cooly, clearly, through a gauze of pink cloud.

Easter at home

Thought I’d better do something about the lack of content here. I’m still only taking photos on my phone (something I plan to fix within the next month) but these are better than nothing. This morning Antonia totally bailed on the Easter egg hunt (she’s not into sweet things and couldn’t see the point) but Felix declared today to be one of the best days of his life. He woke up early and put two fleeces on and went for a solo ‘expedition’ with Whitby to the forest to check if Easter Bunny had been yet. She hadn’t. Luckily Easter Bunny managed to sneak out quietly before making waffles.


Easter starts early in Norway (it’s closer to a week than a weekend) and it’s been so lovely to have this time to potter around with the kids. It’s been filled with everything good: gardening, hiking, crafting, baking, reading, knitting, hanging out with friends, and wandering down to our little beach. With some cleaning and sorting thrown in as well. At times (especially Friday, when Antonia had a fever all day) there has been a bit too much screen time for the kids, but it’s always worth it when we manage to peel them away. Michael’s been making a real effort to take Felix hiking – he complains a bit but I think he’s getting better. We’ve been pushing Antonia a bit too, though if we make her walk anywhere it’s slow going as she likes to roll around on the ground every 20 metres or so…

It hasn’t been entirely without challenges but on the whole it’s been really nice, and exactly what we needed. We finally sold our old house on Tuesday, and we had a somewhat stressful few days of emptying our loft and basement before we handed over the keys. (We’ve thrown a lot of stuff away but are still not sure where to put everything, so will have to get rid of a bit more.) But it’s been so nice just to slow down and hang out with the kids and enjoy being here. I remember really enjoying staying in Norway for Easter two years ago, when Antonia was still a baby. We tend to try to get to Germany for Easter, but last year that was so gruelling that we’ve decided to take a break from that particular endeavour. It’s just not warm enough yet to make it easy to hang out there with the kids.

Also it is just so lovely to get the chance to cultivate a few of our own traditions. We’ve never spent Christmas in our own house with the children (in fact we’ve only ever spent Christmas in our own house once, when I was eight months pregnant with Felix). So it feels special to have this time just for ourselves, to have an egg hunt, to make the hot cross buns. You can’t buy them here and Easter just isn’t the same for me without them. Felix helped make them so they are quite rustic to look at but they were delicious. They have orange rind, apple pieces, sultanas, dried apricots and cranberries inside, and plenty of spices. We spent last Easter dreaming about this house and deciding to try to buy it – we had a look at it the day before we left for Germany, and bought it the day we returned. I looked out of the window this morning and saw a squirrel preening itself on a tree branch. It is good to be here.

Yesterday we walked down to the beach after dinner. The sun had come out. We had to pester Felix terribly to get him out of the house, but as soon as we got to the beach he saw that the little wooden landing was in the water again, and he clambered out to it straight away, deciding that it was a magical vehicle that could be a boat or a plane or a car. Antonia was more or less happy to go with his storyline (“you’re fishing in the air now, Antonia, not the water, we’re flying.” “Ok”). He navigated us to magic land and cloud land and beach land, fetching rocks to throw into the water to get the “bad guys”. And it was pretty perfect.

Antonia says

In the car, driving away from barnehage, Antonia says sadly, ‘I want to say goodbye to my friend Isak.’ Anticipating disconsolate screaming, I suggest, ‘If you say it really loudly, he might still hear you. ‘Goodbye Isak!!! … What Isak say?’ “Goodbye Antonia!’ ‘No. Isak say Har det bra.’ I laugh, impressed. ‘Yes, Isak says Har det bra, Antonia!’ ‘No! He says Har det bra Ahntoonia!’ (Pronouncing Antonia the Norwegian way.) ‘Yes,’ I smile, ‘yes he does.’

When Antonia says concentrate, it sounds like cons mine tate. For example: ‘I’m cleaning my cup. I want to cons mine tate.’ Or: ‘I’m reading! I’m consing mine tate!’

She is currently obsessed with the movie Inside Out, which the kids call In and Out. She’s started telling me fiercely: ‘Stop saying everything will be alright!’ (I’m assuming that’s a quote from the movie but I’m not quite sure.) Yesterday she found a little bag in her play house outside and pretended it was a school bag. She then spent ages and ages ‘going to school’ – wandering back and forth from the playhouse to the trees on the other side of the driveway, the bag hitched on her back. Later in the evening she declared loudly: ‘Stop the bus! I want to get off!’ She then came close to where I was sitting on the green armchair. ‘I came back,’ she said. ‘Hnnn hnnn hnnn I’m sad. I want a hockey team.’

Forest, light, twigs

Late Saturday afternoon we all walked down to our little beach. Antonia needed some coaxing, but once we got there she was in her element. Straight away she sourced herself a long stick to go ‘fishing’ with, and sat poking the water for a long time, in between finding stones to throw in, and stones for me too. This was a welcome change from every other time we’ve been there, when I have been responsible for sourcing the stones. She even let me have a turn of her fishing rod. Felix, who had raced ahead, and sat pensively on a bench looking out over the water by the time we arrived,  was disappointed that all the ice had melted. But he quickly decided that climbing up all the rocks would be worthwhile anyway, and scrambled around the place on his own for a while before convincing Michael to join the rock scaling adventure. We watched the yellow light on the water as the sun dipped behind the hills on the other side of the fjord.

Today we had a picnic in the little patch of forest right next to our house. Michael strung up two hammocks he had brought back from America, and lit a little twig stove to toast marshmallows. It was just. so. good. Like camping, or being on holiday, but only one minute from our garden. Antonia got a little stroppy around nap time (I don’t bother trying to get her down anymore, but sometimes you can see she needs it), but she redeemed herself later, finding a ‘salad’ for me of twigs and leaves. She insisted on going out again just before bed – she dresses herself in her snowsuit, boots and hat, and heads out the door. She instructed me on when to walk and when to follow, where to put the pinecones she found for me, and then sat down with a stick on her lap, pretended it was some kind of musical instrument, and sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I had to do it too.

It’s light till half past six now. It feels like a different world.

Apart from this I cleaned and did laundry, which felt overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but now I feel so much better. Felix helped by spontaneously tidying up the family room so I could vacuum. The house was in chaos from Michael being away for eight days, back for two, then away again for two (he got back on Friday night), and we were both exhausted and near the end of our tether. But it is better now. It was so good to be outside in the forest all together. There is some kind of grace in this place. It is good to be here.

Things I liked today

I guess it’s time to say (or well past the time to say, but never mind) that there will be another little munchkin around here in less than three months. I’m 29 weeks, and the little one is prodding at the computer on my lap as I write. It feels exciting but a little unreal. What is not unreal is the fact that bending over, putting on shoes, and picking things up from the floor are all becoming a lot more challenging.

Things that happened today that make me smile when I think back on them:

  • after some reluctance and a heartfelt explanation from myself about the difficulties of tidying up on my own, the kids very sweetly and whole-heartedly got involved. They even did a team job of wiping down the stairs!
  • it’s very sweet the way they can co-operate and work together at times – Felix explains patiently what to do, and Antonia says ‘ok!’ and complies (they do wind each other up at other times, of course)
  • Felix had a very cute moment with my friend’s one year old – passing him a glow-worm doll to play with, and patting him gently on the back
  • Felix hacking into parsnips and carrots with hair-raising enthusiasm, and passing them to Antonia to put in the pot for the soup
  • Antonia gleefully dipping her asparagus and cucumber sticks into her soft boiled egg at dinner time
  • Antonia deciding that Felix could play with her wooden rocket after all, once she understood how sad he was about it. She’s quite good at this – you just have to talk to her about how people are feeling and give her a minute to process it
  • Felix managing to swim backstroke (slowly and hesitantly) in a straight line at his swimming lesson for the first time
  • Felix managing to swim freestyle across the pool without stopping to take a breath (the instructor had asked them to go as far as they could, and then breathe if they needed, and he decided that he just had to make it all the way. He loves diving under the water so he’s had a bit of practice. It was the fastest I’ve seen him swim. Normally when he swims freestyle he takes far too many breaths which slow him right down. The instructor wasn’t watching properly and I don’t think she believed him when he said he made it the entire way across, but he did – you should have seen him puffing when he finally came up for air.)
  • reading Pippi Longstocking to both kids before bed. They liked it a bit too much and Felix decided that when I told him to got to sleep, he would, like Pippi, put his feet on the pillow and his head under the covers
  • Antonia cuddling up in bed with the pink hobbyhorse she only decided yesterday that she liked. She kept getting distressed if the horse’s pole wasn’t tucked in properly!

And not related directly to the two of them:

  • the soup itself (yum)
  • the snow swirling all day outside our windows (it was definitely an *inside* snow day – so windy!)
  • hanging out with my friends
  • reading for an hour after the kids fell asleep at 8

All that talk of books to read to Felix got me thinking about what I was reading – I hadn’t been able to find anything that was quite right. Then I found Elizabeth Strout’s latest – My Name is Lucy Barton – in our college library, and I just adored it. I’ve just finished Amy and Isabelle on my kindle, and I’m grateful that I think there are another three novels of hers I have yet to read. (I read Olive Kitteridge a few years ago on the urging of a friend, and loved it, but hadn’t tried any of her others till last week.) If any of you know of anything else I might get into – let me know!

The other thing I want to note down is that last weekend Antonia started drawing figures! Faces with arms and legs! She draws them over and over again, and today drew some dinner for them too, and a house. So far she’s been drawing with her left hand.

Reading to Six Year Olds

As Felix has approached six years old, I’ve been looking for ways to introduce longer bedtime stories. When I was in York in October last year, I spent several hours browsing the bookshelves of a large bookshop, and came home with Pippi Longstocking, Flat Stanley, and The Magic Faraway Tree. We haven’t got onto Pippi yet, partly because Felix was annoyed that the illustrations were different from the abridged version Mum bought the kids in Stockholm last year. He adored Flat Stanley. I remember my very first teacher in primary school reading this aloud to us. She was fabulous. He’s very intrigued by the Magic Faraway Tree but finds it a bit scary, so we are only about five chapters in…

Michael has a collection of five minute Batman stories, which Felix practically knows by heart.

In Australia we picked up Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which he has loved. I managed to find the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, in my library, and he gulped that down too. Michael and Felix have also got through Fantastic Mr Fox, but I think Danny the Champion of the World is a bit heavy for now. For Christmas I gave him all four Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey, which he thought were hilarious (and a bit scary), but he was devastated when they ended on a cliff-hanger. These are written in a comic book format, and I’m sure he’ll revisit them when he learns to read.

My Grandma gave him this absolutely gorgeous picture book for older kids, Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon, by Torben Kuhlmann. We’ve read it several times, and I’m sure there will be many more.

I recently asked my friends on Facebook what else they would recommend, and they came up with quite a list!

Some were books which I remember fondly from my own childhood:

The Little House on the Prairie

Tom’s Midnight Garden

Now We are Six, and Winnie-the-Pooh

Wind in the Willows

Beatrix Potter books

More Roald Dahl, especially James and the Giant Peach and George’s Marvellous Medicine

The Narnia books

The Famous Five

Every Arthur quest book ever written (I remember my fist King Arthur book, which was half about King Arthur and half about Robin Hood, picked up at a second hand book sale at school. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.)

Midnite by Randolph Stow (I didn’t read this as a child but it’s one of my favourite books. Laugh out loud funny (for adults, at least). I recently finished writing a chapter about it. Felix is probably about the right age to start getting into it…)

The Secret Garden

And some were new to me:

The Tashi books (lots of votes for these and they look gorgeous)

Andy Griffiths books (13 Story Treehouse and sequels – they look very popular with kids at the moment)

Moomin books, especially Moomin Papa and the Sea

Anything by David Walliams (one of my friends had personal reservations about them, but admitted that the kids loved them. I saw today that my libray has a lot of these)

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm

The Boxcar Children

The Magic Treehouse

Milly Molly Mandy (several votes for this)

Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta books

Emily Rodda’s Fairy Realm books

How to Train your Dragon (these are in my library)

My Father’s Dragon

Swallows and Amazons

Graphic novels like Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Asterix (ok this one isn’t new to me exactly but I never read much of it myself)

The Tale of Desperaux

Treasures in the Snow

And, according to Penni: As read-alones, the Billie B Brown and the Hey Jack books by Sally Rippin are perfect. They are really great everyday social stories too, good for gently rehearsing every day problems like losing something or mean friends or whatever.

And from another friend, who has a boy Felix’s age: As for reading himself, he is reading a series of books about a pig called Mercy that are fun and easy to read.

Anyway, one of my friends asked that I collate the suggestions into a blog post, so they would be easy to find later. So here they are. I’m very aware that he won’t be accessing these books at school (apart from the Scandinavian ones, I guess), so I want to make sure he gets a solid grounding at home. I also think I’ll try to get hold of Bill Bryson’s A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, as Felix wants to know it all. Let me know if you have any more suggestions!




My darling Felix turns six tomorrow. We had a party yesterday. He’d been dreaming of this dragon cake from the Women’s Weekly cookbook for nearly a year, and I’m so pleased we managed to pull it off. Michael took Antonia out swimming on Saturday morning and Felix stayed home to help me decorate the cakes and the house. ‘This is the first time we’ve decorated this house!’ he declared, solemnly, joyfully, as we sticky-taped his Jurassic World banners to the windows. Themed party decorations were also high on his wish-list, after he had wistfully observed them at his friends’ parties. It was so gratifying to be able to oblige.

I was a bit nervous about the party, as it was a lot of work to prepare, and he would have a mix of his old and new friends there, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. In the end it was fine. The parents of his new friends didn’t stay, so I didn’t need to worry about engaging with adults who weren’t comfortable speaking English (we lived in a bit of a bubble at the kids’ old kindergarten, which was bilingual). I did, however, have to communicate with a handful of 5-6 year olds in my creaky Norwegian, but I got by ok. The new friends monopolised Felix but the old friends played with each other, and there were no disasters apart from one kid tumbling down the stairs (oops) and another one getting nervous and hiding and not wanting to eat lunch. Felix beautifully calmed this one down, and enticed him to rejoin the celebrations – I was so proud of him.

Felix loved the party, and even relished the singing of Happy Birthday (in both Norwegian and English). When he was younger – maybe even last year, I’m not sure – we could never sing it to him, he was far too self-conscious. Today he’s been cheerfully putting together the lego sets his friends gave him. We went for a little walk in the afternoon to the frozen fjord. I have pictures – I’ll try to put them up tomorrow. But it was funny, Felix’s comment about decorating the house, because I have been musing a bit on the house over the past couple of days. How our lives and daily routines have changed, expanded, to fit this space. How our move here in May last year coincided with a big change for Felix in terms of what he wanted to play with – he’s hardly touched his trains since he’s been here, and they were such an obsession for years. There’s more to say about this, but it’s bedtime, and oh so nearly his birthday.



One of Antonia’s favourite things is a rectangular duplo plate and a stack of square little duplo blocks. She systematically fills the plate with blocks, takes them off, and does it again. She tries various strategies. ‘Look! All around the edge!’, she tells me, when she has covered the edge of the rectangle like a frame. As she’s sticking them on she sometimes assigns them to people: ‘this one’s for Daddy, this one’s for Felix’. Sometimes I am allowed to help. ‘You can choose the brown one, Mummy, and I’ll do the white.’ Yesterday as she took them all off she lined them up carefully on the sofa. ‘They’re going to sing a song,’ she told me. Later in the hallway, she arranged them into two piles. ‘The boys can sit here, and the girls can sit here.’ There is something enchanting and oddly familiar to me about all this.

In the bath she invents games and instructs me to join in. We have to pretend that we’re sleeping, complete with fake snores, and then we take it in turns to be the ‘wake up master’, and wake each other up. Usually this involves: ‘wake up, it’s morning!’ Sometimes it’s even more elaborate: ‘wake up, it’s Christmas day!’ We then have to pretend to give each other presents and unwrap them. Usually they are teddy bears.

Summer days

It’s our last couple of days in Adelaide before we fly home to the cold again. Christmas was magical. The first couple of weeks here were a bit of a slog as I was on my own this year with the kids, my parents were working and we were battling jetlag, coughs, and then a fever for Antonia. But since Christmas it has been lovely – my parents have been on holidays and I’m in the swing of it now! The past week Felix has been having swimming lessons everyday as part of the vacswim programme. We’ve been going to a really sweet little outdoor pool. It’s so relaxing to have a splash then hang out on the grass eating paddle pops. Felix has learnt a lot and can now navigate deep water by himself (only just, but he is so confident and determined!). Antonia has watched the level one courses with fascination, and practises blowing bubbles and kicking her legs.

It’s been crazy hot the past couple of days but it’s toned down to pleasant today. Yesterday evening we spent half an hour (or more) pumping up a new paddling pool shaped like a shark. We had to use a bike pump and it took forever but the kids (especially Felix) insisted on helping and the process of putting it together was almost as engaging as the finished product.

Mum and Dad have taken the kids grocery shopping and I’m suppose to be doing the final edits to an article but gosh it is hard to concentrate on that right now. I will get it done somehow, it’s very close. We’re planning on going to Glenelg later, so Felix can have another go on these monstrous blow up waterslides, and Antonia can have a play in the playground.

We’ve caught up with friends, hung out with family, picked cherries, gone to the museum, the beach, the pool. I’m bracing myself for the transition back home – the cold, the jetlag, needing to leave the kids at barnehage (normally they don’t mind, but Antonia has made it very clear she prefers the current lifestyle), work, having to cook dinner… Best not to think about it too much.

We spent the morning on the deck today, puddling about on the swings, and pumping air into the paddling pool. Felix found a stretchy strap that had fallen off Mum’s bathers and announced he would use it to make a sling shot. After the early efforts were unsuccessful Dad cut him out a wooden one with holes, and Mum threaded the elastic through. He shot frozen peas and apricot stones off the deck. The peas didn’t work so well but Antonia ate up the ones he didn’t need.

Antonia wants to be a dinosaur. After some quiet reflection in the car the other day, she announced wistfully: ‘I don’t even talk like a dinosaur.’ I told her she could practice.


Weaning Antonia

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.

Birthday presents!


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.


Things I liked today

  1. Hiking in Ystehede.
  2. Drawing robots.
  3. Preparing a lentil shepherd’s pie.
  4. 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? 


Nearly Two

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.