We’ve had such a nice weekend. The weather wasn’t really up for paragliding, so we thought hard about Felix-friendly activities, and kicked off the weekend with a visit to Cabela’s – an outdoor and hunting store that has its own aquarium and displays of stuffed animals, and everything is big (go on, click on that link, you know you want to). We put Felix in the sling so he could have a look around. He liked watching the fish, and was pretty impressed with the mooses and the bears.
We then thought we’d go for a walk in the mountains but it was a bit cold.
So we decided to eat cake instead. (The Coffee Garden was fabulous – thanks for the tip, Rainblissed!)
We then wandered around the 9th and 9th district, and fell madly in love with all the sweet, strange, decrepit houses, the tangled cottage gardens and the tall tall trees.
So many things… Some things are worse than living in Norway, but some things are better. When we first got here, I couldn’t help thinking – where’s my sunny house, and huge sofa, and deck, and lawn, and kitties, and my nice cool pine forest. But here we have a bath, which is great fun with a little baby, we have effortless climate control, thick fluffy carpet, and spacious rooms all on one level. I miss our giant bed which had made it easy to breastfeed Felix without disturbing Michael – for the moment Michael has decamped into the spare room. We aren’t in the prettiest part of Idaho Falls but it’s very convenient living a short walk away from all the shops.
There are two cupcake shops a two minute walk away. So far I have been quite restrained and only tried two flavours – red velvet, which was quite nice, and cherry chocolate cheesecake, which was incredible. I have been trying to be sensible and not eat sweet things but you have to make exceptions for cupcakes, right?
It’s been pretty cold and windy here so far, but we had one warm sunshiny day. I met up with a friend and her daughter in a park (we met them when they had a year long visit to Norway a few years ago), and met a couple of other mothers too. I’ve also joined a mother’s group that seems to do different activities a few times a week, so I shouldn’t get lonely, and it will be a good way to start exploring a little further afield. It’s quite entertaining walking around the shopping malls but it’s terribly tempting just to buy things all the time, which I can’t sustain!
On TV there’s this show called ‘extreme couponers’. People collect thousands of coupons and spend hours every week researching deals, and then manage to buy hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for practically nothing. They end up buying things like 50 tubes of toothpaste in one go, and convert their houses into storage facilities for all their stash. I’m not tempted to give it a go – who really needs 40 bottles of energy drink anyway – but I did manage to get a 30% off coupon at the bookshop by joining this kids club, so I bought Felix the sweetest little activity mat you have ever seen. It has a tree, and little owls and squirrels hanging down.
I finished reading The Children’s Book. It is a beautiful beautiful book but the last 150 or so pages were so hard to read as the mother of a small son. Even so, it is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a very long time. I might write more about it later. I’m now reading Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. I’ve never read it before – my knowledge of American literature is very poor indeed. So far I’m loving it.
Felix has now recovered from his first cold. It was dreadful seeing him so sick, but thankfully it was a pretty mild cold really. It first hit on Saturday. Luckily I had some baby panadol, as I had been worried he’d catch the cold from Michael. On Saturday afternoon Felix started wailing pitifully, and Michael raced out to buy three different thermometers. They’re quite hard to use on a small baby. We got his fever under control very quickly, but he wasn’t himself for several days. Most distressingly, he often didn’t want to feed – when I tried to feed him he would just start screaming. For a couple of days I was heavy with milk and worried about the poor guy, although he did seem to feed better over night. Yesterday I took him to the pediatric centre to be weighed just to check that he was ok, and he is absolutely fine – his weight-gain has remained spot on. So that was a relief. At nearly 15 weeks he weighs 7 kilos.
Tomorrow we’re headed down to Salt Lake City for the weekend. The forecast isn’t that promising so we probably won’t get any flying in, but it will be nice to have a change of scene and I’m sure Felix won’t mind the car trip. Sorry for the rambly post.
Michael: why did you choose the photo of the little cow when I sent you a much better photo of a big cow.
Mel: I like the little cows.
Michael: But the other photo is better.
Mel: Why did you send me a photo you didn’t want me to use?
Michael: I knew you would like it. But I though you would recognise that the other one is better.
We went for a drive today and came across a herd of cows and some real-life cowboys.
There were a lot of very small, very sweet calves,
and atmospheric clouds.
In other news, on top of adjusting to the new time-zone, Felix is recovering from his first ever cold. It’s not very nice for him, but not as terrible as I feared it would be. He just needs a bit more reassurance than usual, and has been very snuffly today. I haven’t slept for more than two hours straight for several days, but am holding up ok. Here he is getting into the spirit of things.
Well, we made it. Halden-Oslo (2 hours drive), Oslo-Newark (8 hours), transit 4 hours, Newark-Denver (5 and a half hours), transit about two hours including a mad dash from one end of the terminal to the other lugging Felix in his carseat, Denver-Idaho falls (1 hour). The above photo shows us in Newark airport, happy that the bulk of the flying was over. It was a bit of an effort, complicated by the fact that Michael was coming down with a cold, but overall it went pretty smoothly. Felix was an absolute star, either sleeping or being generally agreeable. The planes didn’t have basinets but he had his own seat, so we strapped in his carseat, which worked quite well. He didn’t seem to mind take-off and landing. At one point there was a lot of turbulence and he looked over at me with concern, but I gave him a big smile and he started to laugh. He also discovered cartoons. He could not believe his eyes.
Yesterday we unpacked, and introduced Felix to two great American institutions: IHOP (International House of Pancakes) and Walmart. Walmart is enormous, but as everyone is also pushing around enormous trolleys, you are constantly trying to get out of people’s way. We need to buy a kettle. Walmart seems to stock everything except for kettles, so for the moment we are making do with a saucepan. I found some coffee, but couldn’t find teabags anywhere. Eventually Michael asked someone. The teabags are located next to the soft drinks. It’s funny how different cultures classify food and drink so differently. I remember being astonished that the Co-op in Norway shelved the cans of tuna next to the jam.
There are a lot of parking spaces. Actually, if you were to be unkind, you could describe the place as a giant parking lot, studded with over-sized concrete buildings housing fast food chains or superstores. But there are snow-streaked mountains in the distance. And from what I remember (we were here for a couple of days last year), the town centre is pedestrian-friendly and quite nice. I guess it’s not very far away. We just have to wait till our American ‘stroller’ arrives in the post (there was no way our Swedish pram would have fit on the plane, and Felix is happy in a sling for a while but not indefinitely). There is a Barnes and Noble bookshop in walking distance which I intend to frequent. I think it’s time to patch-up my knowledge of American literature.
Our apartment is spacious and comfortable. I am glad we have our Norwegian life to go back to, but we are definitely up for this adventure!
I was going to write – it’s hard to leave Norway in May. It’s true, the country is now at its most beautiful – the brand new glittery birch leaves are a sight to behold, and it’s light forever. But the past couple of days it’s been raining. So it’s not that hard. I will miss our long evening walks into the forest: the slanty light, the cool, fragrant air, Felix cooing at the treetops. Last week I even saw a young deer standing staring at me on the path ahead. I didn’t get a picture of the deer, so here is dear Whitby instead:
Things are finally coming together. Our passports with our visas arrived on Monday, much to our relief. We’ve renewed our residency permits and got one for Felix. Our cats have a home for the time we’re away (we left them cowering under the sofa on Saturday, but apparently already by Sunday they were much happier). We’ve arranged for some friends to stay in our house while we’re away. We even managed to sell our car! Talk about leaving everything to the last minute.
The place feels a bit bereft without the cats, to tell the truth. I hope they are having a good time exploring their new kingdom.
Felix has recovered from his vaccination grumpiness but it has mucked up his sleep patterns. I guess they’re about to get mucked up anyway. He is still being very adorable. He loves to say ‘agoo’. Michael was zooming him around like an aeroplane one evening, and every time he zoomed in to give me a kiss, he said ‘agoo!’ And last night I was giving him a bath, and he looked at me quietly, saying ‘oooooooo’. ‘Can you say agoo, Felix?’, I asked. ‘Aaaagoooo’, he said. He just melts my heart.
We just have to pack up the last bits, and tidy up a tad more. Someone’s coming to pick us up at 7am tomorrow morning. I’m so, so excited.
Felix was not happy. He held it together while our friends who will house-sit for us were here for dinner and house-orientation (well, he held it together as he perched on my shoulder while I paced the floor), but once they left, he let us know how sad he really was. I tried feeding him lying down on the sofa, which sometimes works when he’s unsettled. But he kept raising his little face and staring me straight in the eyes, then sticking out his bottom lip, quivering, frowning, and then letting out the most pitiful sobs. He was happy in the sling for half an hour, but once he came out of it the same thing happened. We even tried some baby panadol as he only had his vaccinations the day before, but that didn’t work either.
At ten pm we took him for a walk in the pram. The cool air outside calmed him down immediately, and after a while he fell asleep. Of course he woke up the second we arrived home, so I took him upstairs and we lay on the bed together. He wasn’t upset any more, but wanted to play. After a while I put him in the crib next to the bed. But he kept wriggling over so his head touched the bars, sticking his arm out towards me and just gazing at me. So I picked him up again. We lay on the bed, our faces two inches apart. He wouldn’t take his eyes off mine. ‘Goo’, he said, ‘agoo agoo agoo brrrsh’. And he touched my cheek and even managed to get a handful of my hair at one point, and we lay there for an hour, just smiling and gooing, our eyes locked together. And at last he got sleepy and had a long drink and went to sleep around midnight.
It is a strange thing, to be so needed.
My dear, you are so adorable right at the moment that your father says you can stay this size forever. ‘He’ll be cute when he’s bigger too’, I say. ‘But look at him!’ He says. And you truly are pretty gorgeous – such a sweet, smily little guy.
You had your first lot of immunisations today and it was a bit horrible to hold you still while the nurse jabbed both your legs. Now you’re having a long long sleep to recover. They weighed and measured you today, and you’re 65 and a half cm long, and six and a half kilos, which means you’re tall and slim – just like me.
Yesterday we lugged you up to Oslo to apply for our American visas. You sat patiently in the car for nearly two and a half hours, even in the traffic jam, and you waited in line with me outside for half an hour very happily too. By the time we got inside though, you’d had enough and you screamed and screamed. (You were starving but couldn’t calm down enough to eat.) Afterwards I found a nice quiet doorstep (heh) and you had a long long feed and then were happy again during the drive home. Next week you have your first trans-atlantic flight, so i’m crossing my fingers that you find an aeroplane a little more relaxing than an embassy waiting room…
But we’re still finding time to sit under the birch trees in the garden, enjoying the sunshine of your very first spring.
I miss writing. Even writing blog posts, which is just about all the writing I’m managing at the moment. Felix is still only sleeping half an hour at a time during the day, so unless I start doing whatever it is I want to be doing the minute I put him down, it doesn’t get done. Sometimes it’s having a cup of tea, which takes fifteen minutes; the remaining fifteen can be used for tidying or daydreaming or making lists of all the things I think I should be doing. Today it is writing. If I want to write I must not put anything away – even my teacup, even his pjs which need to go to the laundry, or wipe any benches, or put the washing on. I must not read anything, even other blogs. I must not click on facebook. I must sit, immediately, with my computer, and write.
When Michael emailed me the last batch of photos (he’s good like that), he titled them ‘Felix and Mum’. And I thought – gosh, ‘Mum’, is that me? I wonder if you’re not really ‘Mum’ until someone calls you that. Which I guess won’t be for a while. But still. I am undoubtably a mother. And I am used to it now, and used to him, but if you think for a moment about the grand, long-term scheme of things, which I can’t help doing from time to time, this is still terribly new. We think – I wonder what he will look like in a year? We think – we can’t wait until he can sit up at a table, and run around and kick a ball, and read a book by himself, and give us a hug. But at the same time, he is utterly gorgeous right now, as small as he is, which is considerably larger than when we first met him nearly twelve weeks ago. Children do something strange to time, and to the future – it feels less predictable and more exciting. A little scary, even, but it doesn’t have to be, it comes at you one day – one minute – at a time.
I’ve had a couple of low patches recently – they never lasted terribly long, not even a whole day, but I would hate to ever get stuck in one. It’s partly just how relentless it all is, and when you feel trapped by it it’s frightening to think you can’t escape it, you have to keep doing it every day for a very long time. I think part of the problem was a mundane one of eating too much sweet stuff. I love sweet stuff. And I love baking. But I feel much more energetic today than last Friday, and the main difference is that there aren’t any brownies left!
The other thing is time for yourself and space to connect with friends. There is not much time for myself but there is a little bit. I have been reading and loving A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I will write more about that later. And after reading this post by Penni, I have been listening to The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, as an audio book. I’ve been enjoying that too. And writing… not so much. But right now I am. I am surprised by how much I have to say!
The other problem, of course, is social interaction. We had a bbq here last Thursday, with a couple of old friends and a couple of new friends, and it was nice but Felix got a bit stressed by all the people so it ended up being quite exhausting. He is best with just a couple of new people at a time. But on the weekend a good friend of mine came over to help us with putting an ad up about our car. She is Norwegian, and lives around the corner, and brought her little daughter who had a great time examining Felix, sitting in his little chair (he’s actually borrowing it from her) and trying to give him her dummy. And it was just so so nice. Then on Tuesday I met with an American woman about my Mum’s age, who is here for a couple of months but comes from Idaho Falls, where we are headed in a couple of weeks. And that was also unexpectedly lovely, and we had the most excellent conversation about pregnancy and children and childbirth, and how pretty the landscape is around here. And then on Tuesday evening I went out for dinner with two friends I met at the kindergarten: my Welsh friend (who is younger than me and adores children including Felix but is waiting for a couple of years before trying for her own), and my Irish friend (who is older than me and pregnant with a much longed-for baby, due in June). I was worried how Felix would go but he was utterly charming and didn’t mind coming out at all. And it was just so so nice. I hadn’t been out with a couple of girl friends for at least two years. I will not let two years lapse before I do it again! It has been a slow process, making friends here (Michael and I are both natural introverts, really), but we are getting there. I know these friendships will survive our eight month absence, and be here when we return.
Apart from that we have been filling in forms and dealing with bureaucrats, and trying to find someone to care for our house and our cats (please don’t ask how it’s going!) and there is a lot a lot to do before we go. Today I have to go to the police to renew our residency permits and get one for Felix. But we are getting there. And the little guy smiles at us every day, especially when Michael comes home from work, and we are loving our brand new family, we are.
Usually Felix complains a little when he’s falling asleep. And he complains a lot when he’s very tired and something surprises him. But today the little man has been made of charm. This evening he actually fell asleep laughing, which was delightful (and rather strange) to see. We were eating dinner and he was lying in his little chair. He would look at us, give a little giggle and throw his arms in the air, and then his eyelids would droop a little heavier… I just ran across to take a photo of him, and he woke up smiling.