A long weekend

We’re at the tail-end of a beautiful long weekend. Today the week-long heat-wave has slowly evaporated, but we certainly made the most of it, and spent plenty of time eating, playing and bathing outside with some excellent friends.

It was so lovely to have some time off with not only good weather, but a Felix healthy enough to enjoy it properly. Here he is galloping around the trampoline.

 
Today we bought a new oven. I am in love. Excuse me while I wax lyrical. We needed a new one because our old one was too small for our kitchen – both too narrow for the spot and too low for the bench. The new one fits perfectly and has induction hot-plates which are an utter revelation to me. So much better than our old ordinary electric ones – my heavy frying pan heated up in an instant, rather than ten minutes, and I managed to saute the mushrooms perfectly without burning the garlic. Not to mention the fact that food doesn’t fall down the side of the oven any more and the handles of the saucepans don’t bump into the bench-top.

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a novel-reading binge. If I open my novel the minute Felix falls asleep, I can recreate the illusion of being able to lose myself in a book for hours and hours. It’s been quite nice. I read the last two books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy. It had taken me about six months to get into The Girl Who Played with Fire, as the first sixty pages or so annoyed me no end. But once I got past them I actually got hooked and enjoyed them immensely. The story and the characters are larger than life but in the end I found them very likable.

From there I jumped headlong into We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver…

But now this blog post has to stop because my early morning is catching up with me and I need to go to bed. I’ll tell you what I thought about it later.

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Euphoria

Last night we made the most of the long balmy evening with a Eurovision party for two.

I like Eurovision. You’ve just got to embrace the cheesiness. This year wasn’t quite as exciting as 2009, when Norway won, or 2010, when it was Germany’s turn. Michael liked the Russian grannies and I thought France was pretty cool. France never seems to get many votes though. Norway did dismally this year and came last (I have to admit I wasn’t terribly surprised, sorry Norwegians!), while their neighbours the Swedes stole the show with Euphoria.

Photos I didn’t take

You know when you have a big rambly lawn, you think how nice it will be to lie on the lawn and watch your toddler potter around it happily, but then he never feels like it and is unaccountably grumpy for two evenings in a row despite the amazing weather… And then all of a sudden you are out in the sandbox together just before bath-time, and you’ve had a great day despite how clingy he was in the morning and despite the fact that most things you offer him to eat result in outraged tears. And when you’ve made him enough ducks from the little sand-mould, he crawls out of the sandbox and chases the cat all the way to the plum trees. And you lie down next to him and he heaps grass-blades into your hands and places them on the cat’s back. All the dandelions are lit up by the warm slanting sun and you when you put one behind your ear he wants to wear one too, then he tries to give it to the cat. You don’t race inside to find the camera because it is perfect, perfect, you could not ask for anything more.

Ducks!

Well, close. I took these photos two weeks ago. Last week we went down to the harbour again, and I told Felix we’d look at the ducks. But there were no ducks, and no swans, and no seagulls. It didn’t stop him pointing repeatedly at the water, saying ‘du! du!’ On the way back through the park, though, we saw pigeons, which also count as ducks in Felix’s book, so it was ok after all. And tomorrow is Wednesday again, hurrah.

In praise of doors

Suddenly there was a ring at the door. Sophie’s Mummy said, “I wonder who that can be. It can’t be the milkman, because he came this morning. And it can’t be the boy from the grocer because this isn’t the day he comes. And it can’t be Daddy because he’s got his key. We’d better open the door and see.”

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr

There is a delightful picture book I remember from my childhood called The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When I read it with one of the children at the kindergarten, she exclaimed ‘tiger!’ Felix, however, is much more interested in the front door through which the tiger enters. So much so, that as soon as he sees the book he cries ‘door!’, then impatiently waits till we get to the page of the tiger coming through the door, then loses interest.

I think he might be onto something.

People are often surprised and amused that one of Felix’s first and favourite words was ‘door’. He says the word with such deliberateness and such enthusiasm, he stretches it out, and he points: ‘door’.

But doors are wonderful. Quite apart from the thrill Felix gets being able to manipulate an object so much taller than him, and the magic of opening and closing it, doors are the gateways to everywhere. The whole world lies outside the door. As soon as Felix learnt to crawl he went straight to the doors and opened and shut them over and over, much to my dismay (as I tried to prevent him from squashing his fingers). Now he likes to walk through them and peer back into the room he has left.

Modern day doors are fairly bland, but in the past people used to take them much more seriously. We saw these doors in Hann. Münden.

And these doors in Salt Lake City.

In our house we have heavy old creaky doors which are quite lovely. I don’t love them quite as much as the previous owner of our house, however, who decided to take down the kitchen door and hang it ‘decoratively’ on the lounge-room wall. I think a door should function, first and foremost, as a door, and I’m glad our door has been restored to its original position.

If you are that way inclined, it is difficult to avoid the temptation to use doors as symbols. The bible is full of them. Churches are full of them. There are special doors that only certain people are allowed through, and doors that are only opened during certain ceremonies. And there is the tantalizing idea of doors to other worlds, for example the door of the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a seemingly innocuous door through which adventure awaits.

So I think doors beat tigers hands down. You just never know what, or who, awaits you beyond them. As Sophe’s Mummy says, ‘we’d better open the door, and see’.

17 May

It’s that time again. The day when Norwegians get dressed up in their gorgeous bunads, watch their children march down the street waving flags, buy them an overpriced balloon, eat copious amounts of ice-cream and hotdogs, and complain about the weather.

It’s also the only day of the year when you will see this many people in the Halden town centre. Michael got some great photos back in 2009, when not only was the sun actually shining, but Norway had just won the Eurovision, so everyone was on a high.

The bunad tradition is apparently based in nineteenth-century romanticism. I’m a fan. As I had to look after the little guy, who was more interested in walking around in circles and poking his little flag into the holes in the park benches, I didn’t get a very good view of the parade. It didn’t matter, because everyone who walked past me was wearing something like this, so I had plenty to look at. Secretly I’d quite enjoy wearing a dress like this. One little girl we met was wearing a beautiful dress that her grandmother had once worn.

No photos of us, because although we learnt our lesson in previous years and did not turn up in jeans, we can’t really compete with the natives. You do feel conspicuously non-Norwegian on the 17th of May. We were invited to a party in the afternoon, and Felix ate a hotdog in lompe (a kind of potato pancake), tasted jelly for the first time, and generally had a ball playing with other kid’s toys and trying to keep up with the big kids. So despite the fact that we are all really very tired just at the moment, it was a very nice day indeed.

Bumblebee


From the photos on this blog you’d be forgiven for thinking that May in Norway is sunshiny and beautiful. It’s a nice illusion.

When the sun does shine, however, you soak it up. Michael spent a fair amount of time in the garden a couple of weeks back chasing bees.

The angelic bees stick to the treetops but in the undergrowth the monsters lurk.

Fifteen months

Sometimes I am astonished at how quickly you change, but you are still you. You still calm down when I sing about the animals in the bus while we’re driving, exactly like you did when you were five months old. You have the same delight when you show us a new skill as you did in the beginning. You still want to nurse every couple of hours overnight, a trait that I am not quite so keen on. You learnt to walk this month, but you still prefer to crawl.

This month has been about songs. You have learnt some of the actions to the songs in the barnehage, and you love to clasp your hands and wave them about for the bumble bee song, and point your index fingers together to make a little diamond for twinkle twinkle little star. That’s my favourite one, I think, because it’s so careful and deliberate and quiet – you do it, and wait for us to notice. The other day we were driving and you pressed the button on your little elmo to make the ‘twinkle twinkle’ song, and then made the diamond with your fingers. You also do it when you hear any other music you like. It’s just adorable. You also sing little songs to yourself, and have a good go at saying ‘baby bumble bee’ – it comes out ‘baby bee’, which is pretty close.

You’re still using all the words I mentioned last month, and have added ‘switch’ (one of your favourite things), ‘cheek’, ‘toe’, and ‘hole’. I sometimes wonder about all the Norwegian whirling around in your head…It’s funny to think about how your erratically expanding vocabulary reflects your interests. We talk about toes a lot at the moment, partly when reading ‘Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes’, but mostly it’s when I want to wrangle you into your pyjamas without the tears. ‘Look’, I say, ‘I wonder if the toes are going to come out the end this time. No, there are no toes there, I can’t see any toes, I don’t think it’s going to work this time. Oh… there they are!’ You laugh and laugh.

You love the bath and never want to get out. One night I let you stay in for ages and ages, and I could tell you were tired of it. ‘Do you want to get out now?’ ‘No!’ ‘Well, do you want to stay in?’ You looked very confused.

You dramatically say ‘fffff’ and hold out your hand as to say ‘stop’, to mean something is hot. You do this to the oven, to lights, to food in bowls. You are very earnest about this and seem quite pleased with yourself. You’re excited when you get to eat hot food. Just the past few days you’ve decided that you are interested in eating a variety of food after all and the anticipation when you’re about to tuck into dinner with your spoon is just priceless. The other week when we were having a picnic in the garden, Whitby came up and tried to eat our falafels. You looked straight at him with great concern and warned: ‘ffff! ffff!’

Whitby is your best friend. It is just delightful to see the two of you together, patting and head-butting each other. I am so grateful we have a cat like that for you to hang out with. He’s very selective and is afraid of strangers, especially other children, but he adores you and always comes to visit if you’re in the sandbox. You look out for him too and tell me if you see him outside, waiting to come in.

The red balloon

Today Michael left for Berlin for a few days but before that we all went out for coffee in the morning and it was lovely. Then Felix and I walked through town and he pointed at all the balloons. There is a surprising number of balloons, tied to signs and strung up on the ceiling of the shopping centre, but you might not notice if you didn’t have a one year old pointing at them all. On the way back I bought him a little present in the bookshop and the shop assistant gave him a red balloon tied to a ribbon.

When we got home we chatted to my parents on skype over lunch. In the afternoon I went with a friend and her baby boy to visit one of her friends and her baby boy (eleven and nine months). It was lovely but a little noisy and Felix took a while to warm up. He doesn’t like too much noise, especially if it’s echoey. I can’t blame him. And then we came home again and Felix ate loads of dinner, had a bath and several breastfeeds, and I put him to bed. Now he’s snoozing cuddled up to Mermos in my bed, which is pretty cute but I’d better kick the cat out soon in case he causes more night-wakings than normal.

This evening I read my novel (I’ve finally got hooked on the Stieg Larsson trilogy and am onto the third book) and tidied up a bit. At 9.45 I looked out of one of the upstairs windows at the blossom trees in our garden, and it was just that point of dusk when the air looks like water and the trees could have been part of a coral reef.

And it was a good day but it rushed past far too quickly. I wish I could spend tomorrow with my beautiful boy instead of going to work. So I’m etching in my mind just how happy he was tugging his red balloon on its string, saying ‘ba! ba! ba!’

Moments

Tonight I am loving these long spring evenings. It is 9.15, and I have just made it up to my desk after tidying up a bit downstairs. The sun has set but it is still light. The sky lazily changes its pastel hues. The huge tree in our garden towers above me, bristling with new green needles. The magpies have fortified their nest near the top. If I stand up I can look down and see the swing hanging from its lowest branch, the sandbox, the white garden chair. This gives me a bit of a thrill. It is still a novelty, this new little family, this home.

Living with a small child intensifies your experience of time. In case you haven’t noticed (hah), I am prone to nostalgia and have an insatiable need for reflection – to stand back, to stand still, to breathe, to write, to record. But my small child makes my desire to reflect even stronger (while at the same time dramatically reducing the time available to do so). Right now, this is who we are: there are three of us, and one of us is one year and two months old. Next year, next month, this will be different. It is strange to look at older children and realize they were once tiny bumblers like our own.

The days and nights tumble into each other. Last night the boy kept us awake for hours, and when we had to get up at seven on a Saturday morning, it was with great reluctance. Felix is still not well and is high-maintenance – going quickly from cheeky laughter to tears and back again. He crawls away and then cries for me to come to him. He needs to sit on my lap. He is hungry but won’t eat that. He wants a sip of water but only one. In the back of the car, he does all his tricks for us: clasps his hands, claps them, makes a pointy diamond with his index fingers, laughs like crazy. Then complains.

After I put him to bed we flop onto the sofas. ‘It was a good day, all in all’, says Michael, and it was. We were together. A hundred tiny moments made it a good day. And something in me strains to catch them all, to pin them down, to somehow keep this day, this boy, this feeling. The light has mostly gone now from the sky and the tree is dark. I am here now and that is enough. But it doesn’t stop me trying.

One week in spring

Felix has had a fever all week. Time slows, is measured in pats and songs and cuddles and naps and walks and tears. We call Australia for five minute skype chats to break the tedium. Sometimes the little guy brightens up and is almost himself. Other times he sobs. He knows what he wants. ‘Nom!’ he says, demanding a breastfeed, and ‘no no!’ when he’s had enough, or if I try to offer him anything else. When he naps, instead of folding the washing, I nap too, or sit on the sofa, reserving my energy. Night times are the worst, he is so hot and I am frightened. He vomits all over the sheets, twice. Michael puts on load after load of washing. I stay with the boy. Time slows. I slow too. I am with my boy. Outside, it is May. We go into the garden for a picnic on the lawn. Felix is happy on my lap, distributing the pine cones.