Sand and sun

It’s been a busy week and both my boys were stricken with gastro for a couple of days but today the sun finally came back and both boys felt better so Michael built Felix a sand-pit.

It turned out pretty great.

I went inside to make some waffles and from the kitchen window I could see them playing in the sand-pit. At that moment I was so very grateful. After waffles the sun still shone and shone so we walked to the forest.

Last time Felix had been here he was about this big. Now, all of a sudden, there is a little boy holding my hand. And it was a very good day indeed.

Annie’s visit

We had the most wonderful visit from my Aunty Annie last weekend. We only found out a couple of weeks ago that she could come – she had a conference in Paris and managed a side trip to Norway. We were too busy enjoying ourselves to take many photos, but she is of course immortalized in our video of Felix’s first steps. (I think she felt a bit sheepish that she got to be here for that – she said my Mum had already had to forgive her for coming!) Felix absolutely adored her and we had the nicest time. Despite uninspiring weather we managed a whirlwind tour of our favourite spots in Halden, Fredrikstad and the shopping centre across the Swedish border.

When she left I felt bereft, but after spending some time with my favourite Halden friends this week I feel a bit better. Sometimes it is just wretched living so far away from family, though of course if we didn’t live so far away, we wouldn’t be able to have such nice visits.

A day in the woods

Every weekend, whatever the weather, Norwegians go into the forest, make little fires and cook their lunch. Last Sunday some of our friends invited us to join them, and it was a lot of fun. Remember these photos? It was so sweet to see the little guys together again a year later.

Just how do I get to that truck?

And after reading Blue MIlk’s post about photos of the invisible mother, I just have to include this photo too. It may look like the babbies are pretty self-sufficient in the above photos, but that is an illusion!

 Our friends cooked us pancakes.

After their lunch, the little guys slept in their prams while we ate more pancakes.

After that a couple of intrepid Norwegians changed into their running gear and went for a run (did I mention it was freezing?). Felix woke up and practiced his walking. All in all, a pretty perfect day.

Fourteen months

This month has all been about ‘Mamma’ and ‘Dadda’. Mostly ‘Mamma’, to be precise, but you are pretty enthralled with your ‘Dadda’ too. When we are out shopping, if Michael disappears for a few moments, you scan the scene and crane your neck until you spot him, and then you point and pronounce enthusiastically: ‘Dadda!’ If I disappear or leave the room even for a moment it is another matter altogether and within seconds you are in tears.

The middle of this month was a little challenging as you were feverish again and seemed to have terrible pains in your gums. Unfortunately there are no new teeth to show for all that suffering – I really hope they make it through next time, if that’s what that was about.

You’ve got quite a few words now:

Mamma
Dadda
Door
Bye bye
Se (look, see – I think this is your first Norwegian word)
No (accompanied by head-shaking)
Nom nom (breastfeed, food, yum)
Baa (sheep)
Ba (ball)
Ba (bath)
Bow (bowl)
Nana (banana)
Nawwww (cat, cuddle)
Aaaah! (sort of screetched. cat, meow)
Rah (lion)
Woof woof (dog)
Broom (car)
Toot toot (train)
Dom (down)
Do (stop)
Daaa (there)
Du (duck)
No (nose)
Mou (mouth)
Ah (eye)
Shoe

You’ve also made some very passable attempts at saying ‘waffle’

You take great pleasure in naming the world. Sometimes I think you point things out merely for the satisfaction of naming them. You say bye bye to everything right now, including toys and computers. You are very nearly walking. You’ve started initiating peekaboo games – hiding things behind your back, or hiding yourself, and jumping out, grinning your head off, saying ‘Aha!’ It’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

2011: Love

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am reposting one of my favourite posts from each year.

In 2011, after weeks of waiting, Felix was born and changed everything. I will never forget the day of his birth. My grandparents visited, all the way from Australia. We stuck around in Norway just long enough to taste the first hint of spring, before disappearing to America for six months. We did some awesome trips, and I had a blast visiting a blog-friend in Seattle. Michael took some pretty great photos. We capped the year of with sunshine and family in Australia. But this is my favourite post of all.
                                                                                                    

September 2011: Love

Last week you turned seven months old. And I just love you so much. (Though sometimes I am ragged with tiredness and just want someone else to take you for an hour.) I feed you to sleep for most of your sleeps. And when you fall asleep, I just gaze at you, your lashes and your soft cheeks. You are so beautiful. Michael took these photos at a lake in Montana. Usually you are too distracted to feed when we are out anywhere, but this time you were hungry, and relaxed, and you fed for a long time, making sure I kept looking at you.

You can sit like a pro now. You are nowhere near crawling, but you have grown adept at sort of launching yourself from sitting towards the direction you would like to go. You are also very good at letting me know what you think about things. Tonight after your bath we read a book together, and you were having a fabulous time chewing and scratching and whacking it. Then I could see you were tired so I said ok, lets go to sleep now, and you smiled at me so sweetly. Then I started putting you in your sleeping bag and you cried with such bitter disappointment and rage, before snuggling in for your evening feed and drifting off to sleep.

At the moment you love to click you tongue, blow raspberries, and shake your head rapidly from side to side. I tried it, and it actually makes the world look quite funny – I wonder if you do it for the thrill of it, as well as to show us how clever you are. You love when I sing ‘open, shut them’ and ‘insy winsy spider’.

This morning we walked along the river, and stopped in the coffee shop before storytime at the library. This is pretty much routine, and a good one. Since you’ve gotten into eating solids you don’t need to feed as much when we’re out, but you seemed to want it. I realised you hadn’t had any since 5.30, and it was nearly 10, so we cuddled together in the corner of the sofa and you fed for a long time. I guess it felt special because normally when we’re out you have about two sips and then wriggle around to see if you’re missing anything. But walking over to the library, both of us satisfied with our morning drink, I just felt so happy.

2010: The Honeymoon Christmas

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am reposting one of my favourite posts from each year.

If 2009 was big, 2010 was bigger, although it passed in such a blur. As I summarized here, in 2010: I made the saddest and most careful decision of my life, we moved into our very own house, I taught at the University in Oslo, I got pregnant again, our cats entered the story, and to top it all off, out of the blue, we got married.

But my favourite post has got to be this one.
                                                                                                                

2010: The honeymoon Christmas

For once we didn’t go anywhere. This was our seventh Christmas together, but our first Christmas alone together. Our first Christmas in our very own house with our very own tree. Our first Christmas with our very entertaining cats. Our first Christmas married. Our first Christmas in Norway. My very first white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we tidied up a bit then settled down for presents about 4pm (Michael having ascertained in advance that we would do German presents rather than Australian ones so he wouldn’t have to wait till tomorrow). The kittens were most excited with their toy mice, Michael loved his huge warm grey dressing-gown, I put my early Christmas present of an ipod touch to good use providing some quality Christmas music, and we emptied the Christmas stockings of an over-abundance of Swedish chocolate I had purchased to make up for already having eaten the Australian chocolate Mum had sent me. (We still have some German Christmas goodies left cos Michael’s Mum sent over four boxes of them!) We then called Michael’s folks, had a yummy dinner of roast carrots, parsnips, garlic, red onions, falafels and brussell sprouts, and capped off the evening by watching ‘Let the Right One In’ – brutal and poetic and heart-warming all at once.

The 25th continued in much the same way – our favourite food, a crackling fire, novels on the sofa, a walk in the snow, skype calls to family, and Michael practicing taking photos of lights. Some new friends, a Japanese family, came over for dinner, and their little daughter proved what a good kindergarten teacher I’ve been for the last few months by giving us spirited renditions of ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’.

I thought some more about how much I like that Norwegian advent poem – how joy and hope are there, but longing too. The last verse goes:

We light four candles this evening,
and let them burn down,
for longing, joy, hope and peace,
but most of all
for peace on this small earth
where people live.

My Nanna said that Christmas wasn’t the same this year without Irene, my Dad’s twin sister who died earlier this year. And I must admit, looking at several of my friends’ Christmas photos on facebook of their six month old babies, I felt a little twinge for our lost little one whom we will never meet. But then I felt an even bigger twinge from the very present little one kicking and wriggling inside me, and I smiled. We should meet him very soon. But I like that poem very much because those who are absent can be with us too, they are not shut out.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas in Australia with my family and the sunshine, and I love Christmas in Germany with Michael’s family and the perfectly wonderful German Christmas markets. But this year, this quiet, happy, snow-filled Christmas was exactly what we needed, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

2009: Snapshot

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am posting one of my favourite posts from each year.

2009 was a big one. I finished my PhD, we bought a house, my friend died, I started working in the kindergarten, I got pregnant for the first time. (I didn’t blog about that in 2009, because it was too early, but I can’t look at this post without feeling nauseous.) It’s hard to choose a favourite post. I’m very fond of this one, Of Love and Faraway Places, about my cousin’s wedding, this one, about stone, and this one, about a carefree weekend with my brother in Berlin. But my favourite post, despite its brevity, has to be this one. It was the day after I passed my viva, and I was reeling with vertigo.

                                                                                            

May 2009: Snapshot

I walk the long way back to the train station. The street is wide and the Victorian shopfronts glow faintly bronze in the fading light. The sky is opaline, scalloped, pink and blue. Two aeroplanes pencil bright orange trails beside the crisp white rind of the moon. My belly is just slightly too full of Hansa’s curries, mango lassi, white wine. My head whirls with the discussion about openness and uncertainty with three sweet Danish girls. Happiness is curry and wine and the slow evening sky so close to the city. I remember the first weeks of my phd, in October, hurrying back to the train station as the sun set earlier every day, watching the fiery clouds touch the buildings. Four winters have passed since then. Now the plane-trails broaden and turn pink. Like paths I could tread.

On the train, I realise I’m still carrying the thesis. The window takes on a sheen because it’s finally dark, though I hardly notice. I take out the manuscript – fat heavy green thing that it is – to read my favourite poem about the river. But I don’t open it. I hug it. I hug it tight.

2008: Mornings

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am posting one of my favourite posts from each year. I wrote this post almost exactly four years ago. It’s one of the image poems I had great fun with for a while.

                                                                                                      

April 2008: Mornings

On days like this, the mist-machines
get going early.

The town is shiny with it

but the islands are asleep.

They dream grey dreams
of moon-suns glowing in the depths
beneath the pointed masts.

The harbour polishes the sky

and all the trees say

soon,

soon.

 

Five Years

This little blog turns five years old today. Five years feels a long time and a short time. Much has changed, and, strangely, much has not. When I started blogging, I split my time between England and Norway, and I was midway through a PhD. Now I live in Norway, the PhD is long finished, and there is a new little human in our lives. I have enjoyed posting these little postcards to myself and to the world.

To celebrate, over the next five days I will repost one of my favourite posts from each year of this blog. To begin:

                                                                                                           

July 2007: Parapenting

That’s paragliding. In French. We return with brown arms and peeling noses, serious leg muscles, and – almost – two paragliding licences. Eight amazing flights, but no photos. Too many other things to think about. I shall attempt a slide show in words.

Image 1, Monday: Despair

Our attempts at paragliding always involve highs and lows. In the past we’ve battled floods and weeks of unflyable conditions. This time it seemed too good to be true – Monday morning, up on the mountain bright and early, light wind, perfect conditions, arranging our lovely new wings ready for take off. And then the instructor takes a closer look. Where’s the gutesegel? Wings flown by German pilots in Germany are required to be certified by the DHV – the German hang-gliding and paragliding association. Our wings are certified by the European association, not the German one. No matter that we are in France, we live in Norway and England, and the flight school is Austrian. We cannot fly.

We sit on the back of the launch site, our shiny wings crumpled around us, our heads in our hands, as other people launch. It had been too good to be true, after all.

Eventually a very kind man who already had his licence offered to swap gliders with me. His wing was ten years old, but at least it had the right certification! And we were the same weight, which is important. I got two flights. Poor Michael carried his glider back down to the landing field. The next day the school found one he could rent from them. All was not lost…

Image 2, Tuesday: Rain

We lie in the back of the snuggle-car, and read. Rain falls on its roof and the windows, all day and all night, turning the camp ground to mud.

Image 3: The French Cat

White, brown and ginger patches, beside the red geraniums.

Image 4, Wenesday: The Climb

Despite the shuttle service, you still have to lug your 15kg glider on your back up the mountain for at least 15 minutes in the sun. That’s where the leg muscles come from.

Image 5: Take off

You can’t take a photo of this, anyway. The weight and the balance of it, as you plunge forward and the glider lifts behind you, and now is above you, and you run, and are suddenly weightless, and the wing that you carried now carries you, and the hillside disappears below, and you sit back in your harness and the air is all around: gentle, smooth, free.

Image 6: Treh

In the afternoon we go to the high mountain. There are gliders everywhere: launching, hovering, spiraling up in the thermals, crossing against the sun. Like great multicoloured birds, like a carnival.

Image 7: The Thermal Flight

Now it is my turn to launch. The wind is quite strong but I’m off with no problems, and the instructor says fly right, fly into the thermal, fly circles. Soon I am high over the launch site. I am flying up, for the first time. My first thermal. Other gliders kite around me, but I seem to be in the perfect spot, I go up and up and leave them behind. I am at cloud-base. The air beneath the cloud’s grey belly is slightly misty. It’s much colder up here, 6000 feet above the valley floor. My t-shirt is not enough. I wish I was wearing gloves. The mountains stretch below me in every direction. I can see the whole valley. I can see white clouds beside me in the sunlight. I can see the other gliders far below, distant and tiny, like tic-tacs. I hover there easily. Eventually, slightly nervous that the cloud will swallow me, I fly out towards the landing site. But I do not come down for a long time, nearly an hour, shivering with cold and with joy. The sky is reluctant to let me go.

Image 8: Wind

The next day the wind is too strong to launch, but we play about with the gliders anyway, practicing. The lovie does fine. Come, Meli, come, he says, you try too. Apprehensively I hook myself up to my glider. The wind seems to get stronger. Just hold it there for a minute, he says. But the wind is insistent and it shoots up anyway, dragging me sideways until I manage to get it up properly, controling it above me. But the sky likes me too much. Suddenly I am four metres above the ground, and I’m not coming down. The lovie stands below me, more scared than I am. When I do come down, he grabs me and pulls the lines, and we tumble over together and the glider miraculously stops. No harm done, and I got an extra little flight. Heh.

I can fly. I can fly. I can fly.

Albertsgaard Revisited

If you’re planning on staying up all night with a teething baby midway into a 1000k car journey, this is probably the place to do it. (Even better would be to stay here a week, completely alone, and write a novel, but that’s not on the cards right now.)

We left feeling refreshed and thoroughly spoiled by our lovely hostess. And the breakfast was something else.

Hann. Münden

Hann. Münden is a town with a medieval centre, not far from Michael’s hometown of Kassel. Once Kassel itself had a centre like this, but now, since the war, it looks more like this. We had a lovely, if chilly, afternoon in Hann. Münden on Easter Friday, stopping for coffee and waffles to warm us up. Moni was born here. I love this photo of her so so much.

Happy birthday, Nanna!

This weekend my wonderful and very clever Nanna turns 89. We’ll be on the road back to Norway, so I wanted to wish her a very happy birthday now. We had such a nice time visiting her while we were in Australia, and going shopping with her, and going out for breakfast at the French Cafe, and out for lunch with Dad at the Belair Hotel. We crashed Dad’s and Nanna’s regular Thursday lunchtime date twice, and they got us to take a picture of them at their regular table. I love you so much, Nanna, and wish I could go out with you every week. xxx

Easter in Kassel

An abundance of chocolate aside, it’s all about the decorations.

This display was in one of the shopping centres. Felix enjoyed walking along holding on to the little fence, swiping other small children out of the way.

He liked the purple cows.

Michael liked the watch-makers.

I liked the fuzzy goats.

Moni has been looking forward to showing Felix the rabbits for weeks, but I think she liked his snuggles best of all.

Coffee break

I’ll be honest: sometimes when Michael whips out his camera and I’m not particularly in the mood, or I’m trying to eat my pizza, or I’m trying to keep Felix happy while worrying about whether we’ll make it home by nap-time, I don’t exactly jump with joy. But then he captures gems like these and I am so, so grateful.

I think I look tired in these photos (and we both need a haircut) but also relaxed, and confident, and in love. And that’s pretty much how it is.

Denmark

When we drove down to Germany last weekend, we stopped overnight in Denmark. Here. It was awesome. We’re staying there again on the way back, so I’ll tell you more about it then. The trip went really very well. Felix held up like a trooper over the two day drive despite coming down with a fever half way through. We’re in Germany now, and he’s having a ball.