Early birthday

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

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

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Felix liked the jelly best anyway.

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

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

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

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Writing now

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

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

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

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

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

Tea and toast. Back to it.

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

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

‘Mummeeeeeeeeeeeee!’

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

A lovely wedding

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

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

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

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

Linking up with Jodi for 52 project.

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

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

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

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

Ok. Baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Five months

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

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

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

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

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

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Bouncing

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

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

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

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

Happy new year!

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

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

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

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