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.

 

At the library

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These photos taken at the library didn’t quite work out but I love them all the same. I have so enjoyed taking Felix up here to story time once a week, and Antonia has enjoyed watching the other children and playing with these bead things.

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After a month of coming to story time once a week I was starting to get to know some of the parents, and last week a few of them said ‘see you next week’, and I had to say, no, actually, you won’t, we’ll be in another world by then.

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Felix: trying to blow bubbles outside my Grandma’s house. The bubbles weren’t working too well by now but I love his patient concentration and the way the light reflects up at him from the sunny pavement.

Antonia: cheeky smiles in the park. Bonus photos below. Tomorrow we hop on a plane (well, three planes) back to the cold.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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Over the bridge

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Felix woke up this morning with his loud voice. I could hear it from my bedroom as he bossed my Mum around: ‘Gwanma!’ When Mum left for work he brought his loud voice into my bedroom, cheerfully waking Antonia and flopping on our bed.

‘I want to go to Marion Bridge!’ he announced. ‘Murray Bridge’, I said, ‘Why?’ (Knowing full well it was just because Mum was working there today.) ‘To go over the bridge,’ he said.

And the darlings are finally asleep and I should be too but it is too tempting to stay up and breathe. The success of my days is measured in smiles and cuddles and windswept playgrounds but sometimes I lift my head.

The tiny achievements of the small beings closest to me are endlessly fascinating to me. My heart skips a little to see Antonia edge closer and closer to crawling. The moments I want to remember are those when they are ‘in the groove’, doing their thing, curious, content. Antonia singing to us – ‘bababababa!’ Felix deciding to pick mint, basil and tomatoes for dinner, and finding appropriate bowls for them from the cupboard. He can do it unsupervised, knowing to leave the green ones to ripen.

Like I said, endlessly fascinating – to me and Mum and Dad and Michael, and hardly anyone else.

And of course there are the other moments which I don’t particularly want to remember at all.

And apart from that, here, there’s my family, and my old old friends, and parks and gorgeous sunshine, and I’ll be leaving it all soon and that’s ok. Somewhere in the air and the light here is the self I was twelve and fifteen and thirty years ago, and if I look sideways briefly I can almost see her. And somewhere, I guess, is the self I would have been if I never had left. I see her in playgrounds and in libraries and I wonder.

But an aeroplane and a white house and cold air and a tightly coiled spring await me, and I’m coming.

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Felix licks the spoon, Antonia has to content herself with the unused juicer.

I took these pictures on Tuesday in my Grandma’s kitchen. We turned up unannounced early Tuesday morning, and Grandma declared delightedly – ‘well, that sorts out my morning for me! I’m not going to the gym after all.’ We played on the lawn for a while while Granddad worked in the garden, and Felix made a duplo train track outside. Antonia had a short nap. Felix flicked through one of Grandma’s fancy cook-books, and asked ‘can we make these?’ ‘They look a bit too complicated’, said Grandma, ‘but we could make muffins.’

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Felix carefully mashed the bananas and measured out the chocolate chips. He was entranced by the special drawers Grandma has for flour and sugar, just as I had been as a child.

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When Antonia woke up, Grandma gave her some cups and things to play with, just has she had for Felix, three years ago.

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As the muffins cooked, the pair of them capered about on the floor for a bit. One of the worst things about living in Norway is being so far away from here, but right now, for another week, we are soaking it in.

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Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children each week in 2015.

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‘The colour of the sea should have astounded, but the boy was seldom astounded. . . Nevertheless, the colours had entered into him, printing a brilliant memory.’

Randolph Stow, The Merry-go-round in the Sea

Exploring: above and below.

Felix, despite being a bit nervous about heights, decided he needed to make it to the top of the complicated climbing structure in the playground. He did.

Antonia spends her days scooting along backwards. Here she was exploring my Dad’s workroom.

(edited: I changed my mind about which portraits to include this week!)

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

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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Australia 2014-15

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.

 

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.

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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Grandma and Granddad’s house

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I’ve been really enjoying hanging out with the kids at my grandparents’ house. Mum says it’s strange to watch her grandson riding a bike along the same verandah she rode along as a child. It’s the same for me. So many childhood memories in this house and garden. And there I am, not a child any more but one of the mothers.

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How many babies have been cuddled on this lawn?

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How many barefoot races?

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How many children have helped with Christmas baking?

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36 hours later

We are back in chilly Norway. The house feels small. The snowy expanses were very beautiful when we came in to land. Felix was an absolute darling throughout the whole trip. He slept quite well and the rest of the time was cheerfully occupied observing and commenting on everything that went on. He loves planes. He loves airports. ‘Lady make it dark!’ he declared when they switched all the lights off for landing. When we finally arrived in Oslo after stopovers in Singapore and Frankfurt, he said ‘more plane! More in the big plane!’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘we’ve had enough of planes now.’ He looked out of the window. ‘More plane! Blue one!’ ‘Do you want to go in the blue plane?’ ‘Yeah!’ He was so excited when we got off the plane that he ran all the way to the luggage belts with only one crash. He was still talking about the planes on the train home.

Our good friends picked us up from the train station and cooked dinner for us, which was about the nicest welcome back imaginable. Felix finally and comprehensively conked out about an hour before we arrived in Halden, so we laid him down on their sofa and he didn’t make a sound.

Now we are home and the fire is burning. It is hard to say goodbye to the beautiful light-filled love-filled days in Adelaide. Having a toddler to supervise on the long journey back, I haven’t had a lot of time to dwell on it. And here I must hit the ground running. I have a Norwegian test on Wednesday and another one next Monday; I’m back at work on Tuesday, and on Thursday I have four hours of tutoring at Oslo University, with some preparation still needed. (I’m tutoring an introduction to British literature subject this semester, which is exciting.) When this crazy fortnight is done and dusted, I have a meeting about some other possibilities for the autumn. I take a deep breath. I will do my best.

23 Months

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You have had a beautiful month here in Australia. You recognised my parents, brother and grandparents immediately from seeing them on Skype, and you have felt at home here from the moment you stepped off the plane. You are talking so much now it amazes me, and you come out with new phrases every day.

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This months has been filled with playgrounds,

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family,

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cake,

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sun,

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beaches, friends, and babycinos.

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You’re so impressed with the babycinos that you sometimes talk about them immediately upon waking. You’ve grazed your poor knees over and over but like to point at them and reassure us that they are ‘all better now’. You like to talk about how Grandma goes to work to make ‘other people better’. You are obsessed with water, doors, cars and all your favourite people.

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When we get out of the car you say – ‘careful! lots of cars. hold mama’s hand!’ You chatter away to yourself and us nearly constantly and make me laugh and laugh. You’ve also recently suddenly got interested in giving us huge cuddles and it is quite adorable.

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Everyone here is going to miss you terribly, but I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

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Painting with Poppa

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My Dad keeps trying to get Felix to call him ‘Gren’, but Felix named him ‘Poppa’ in September and for the moment it is sticking. One of Felix’s favourite phrases at the moment is ‘Poppa mo-ker-bike . . . helmet on!

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He also enjoys scurrying into Dad’s studio at any opportunity. He agreed to wear the apron because, as he proudly told me when I poked my head in the door, it is ‘Poppa’s’.

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Back to the beach

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We had such a lovely day today. We met Mala (and parents) at a beautiful beach in the morning. Felix spent a long time building a wall. Mala helped, and fetched water, and danced about, and sat on the wall and dived over it, but Felix’s concentration could not be broken!

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Then we all went out for lunch and reminisced about eating pizza in Berlin all that time ago. We stayed out way past Felix’s nap time and it didn’t matter at all. He and Mala held hands and practiced their jumping, and Mala let Felix drink her babycino as well as his own and it was just the loveliest day.

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Beach

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Michael has been taking so many beautiful photos while we are here and I am getting very behind in posting them. But I want them here, as a record, as a memory. We are soaking up this summer as best we can, for too soon we return to the cold.

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These photos were taken on our first beach trip a couple of weeks back, and we have been many times since. Felix is now a lot less cautious than he was that first day. Today he spent ages chucking shells and bits of seaweed into the waves. It’s just the perfect place.

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More photos from Australia Day

On Australia Day we had a BBQ at my aunt’s house, which turned into an impromptu early birthday party for the babies. Here they are testing out each other’s presents.

I made some bug-cakes

Mala tried to steal Grandma’s lunch

Felix practiced his standing

and learnt how to wash the dishes.

Next time the little guys meet they will be taller, older, wiser. This next little sequence of events is too sweet not to record.

A most beautiful afternoon

We took Felix to Brighton beach again this afternoon, intending just to get a coffee and then have a stroll along the sand. Felix had other ideas. Mum held him while I kicked off my shoes, and she said she heard him gasp when he saw the ocean. He wriggled and wriggled, so we put him down to play on the sand. But he was off like a shot, crawling full-pelt towards the water. Mum caught up with him and stood him up in the shallows for a couple of minutes, then carried him back. He was away again immediately, ‘like one of those turtles’, as Michael put it. I ran after him, but there was no way he was standing up this time, he wanted to sit in the water!  We didn’t even have a towel with us, but we stripped of his clothes, slathered him in sunscreen, and let him go.

He had the most fabulous time. He crawled straight into the water, and even went quite deep at times, but not too deep. The little waves splashed him. He splashed them right back and clambered around and dug his hands into the sand. Then he spotted a two year old girl and crawled over to her, and they played and played, splashing and picking up shells. I chatted to her grandma. And I do not tell a lie when I say it was one of the loveliest hours of my life.

A wedding in a garden, II

Last weekend my cousin Tom got married in my grandparents’ garden. It was an awesome party.

Apart from the bride and groom, of course, my grandparents were the stars of the show.

There was a brief thunderstorm, which everyone had been dreading all week,

but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

It rained so hard that the creek (dry all summer) flooded, and they had to fish out the lighting cables.

But the skies cleared and all was well.

Here is a random selection of our family. It was so nice to see everyone together.

Grandma explained to all who would listen how her daughters and granddaughters used to find fairies in the garden

(and lions, I told her)

and in the sparkling evening light,

that was entirely plausible.

Snapshots

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When I arrived, this time, the trees seemed strange, twisted, dry. The birdcalls wild and raucous. The light everywhere. It felt like the ends of the earth. But the accents of the locals startled me with familiarity – I kept turning, expecting to see long lost friends.

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I look at family photos on my grandparents’ wall. A tiny me sits on a log in a rainforest with all 8 of my cousins. There are family shots of my family, and my Mum’s two sisters’ families. And above them, in sepia tones, another family. I ask who they are. They are my grandma’s father’s family. He wasn’t born when the photo was taken, so there is a separate photo of him as a little boy in an oval frame. The woman in the photo is his mother but she died when he was about five, so my grandma only ever met his stepmother. Grandma points out her aunts. Aunty Jean, Aunty Marg, Aunty Ruth. Little girls. Jean and Marg never married; Ruth had three children but died in her 30s from blood poisoning which she got when she was dying clothes black for a funeral. For the first time it feels strange to look at photos of children who have grown up, grown old (or not), died.

3.

Felix dips his spoon with great concentration into his bowl and brings it to his mouth. Grandma tells me when my Aunty Anne was his age she was impossible to feed, and one day she gave up and left her with her bowl and her spoon. ‘Feed yourself then!’, she said. ‘And she jolly well did.’

4.

I look at the family photos on my Nanna’s wall. There is a photo taken when my Dad was a child. He is skinny and alert, standing close to his mother. His twin sister Irene, who died two years ago, and his older sister Marjory stand close to their grandmothers.

5.

My Dad can’t take his hands off Felix. He scoops him up at every opportunity, showing him tow-hooks, bolts, the contents of the pantry, his mobile of jangly beaten spoons, pointing out the train when it goes past. Tonight I say: ‘It’s pretty amazing watching Felix learn to crawl’. ‘He’s pretty amazing full stop’, he says.

6.

It is hot. We fill up a tub with water and let Felix splash around in the living room. Nanna tells us of the year in England, more than fifty years ago, when her three small children had measles, and had to stay inside with the blinds drawn down because they thought the light would damage their eyes. She brought snow inside for them to play with, and they were so happy.

Happy New Year!

I have been looking back at the snow-filled posts of last December, and this year is so different for us! (Apparently the winter in Norway is much milder this year anyway, so we haven’t actually missed out on much snow after all.)

2011 has been busy and brilliant as predicted. We have traveled to some amazing places, met some excellent people and weathered some sleepless nights,

but the most wondrous thing has been seeing our little guy grow up before our very eyes.

We are enjoying our two months in the sun before we go back to Norway to resume everyday life. I imagine that will be an adventure in itself with an almost one year old on board. To all my regular readers – thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the journey – I really appreciate having you around. We wish you all the very best for 2012!

Christmas take two

The next day we did it all again with the other side of the family at my Grandma’s house.

Little Miss Mala stole the day, walking laps of the gardens with various adults in tow.

Everyone was happy to have another generation around.

The desserts were pretty good too.

Felix got thoroughly spoiled – at one point the three of us were sat together on the sofa, pretty much buried under an avalanche of presents.

Here Felix is looking about as exhausted as I was by that point,

but it was a wonderful, wonderful day.

Christmas take one

Felix opens his first present,

a box of wooden vegetables from my Mum.

We gave him a xylophone and a gorgeous board-book, Mog and Me. We ate waffles for breakfast, then Dad’s extended family arrived, and the afternoon passed in a blur of excitement.

Felix checked out some more second cousins.

But the most original present of the day was courtesy of my brother and his girlfriend, who gave Felix a ‘mini-Jon’ outfit.

He totally rocked it.

Can’t stop knitting

Now that I have a knitting guru on hand I’ve finally started to knit Felix a cardigan! Mum helped me cast it on last week and Michael managed to catch the moment on camera.

I’ve been hard at it ever since. In fact, the only reason this post is finally being completed is that I’ve made another small mistake and I have to wait for Mum to get home to fix it before I can continue. (Before I leave I’m going to have to do a couple of sampler squares to practice picking up dropped stitches…)

I love these photos so much.