Meanwhile, in America

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Well it’s been well over 20 degrees and gorgeous here in Norway, and Sunday continued in a similar fashion to Saturday with friends, treats and parks. Meanwhile, Michael has enjoyed a short road-trip at the tail end of a conference, and wanted me to share some photos. Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow!

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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.

On the way

Well, we’ve left. We’ve made it to LA. I am so, so grateful we have two nights here before flying onto Norway. Felix did pretty well on the plane and slept for more than half the trip. There were several spare seats so due to Michael’s forward planning we managed to sneak the car-seat on, which made all the difference. It would have been uncomfortable for both of us if Felix had had to sleep on my lap all the way – he’s such a big little guy now! I’m also glad I’m still breastfeeding, it really helped to keep him happy. Everyone on the flight was pretty impressed with him; someone told me ‘ your baby was divine!’ He had a fabulous time exploring Sydney airport before the flight, and entertained everyone by crawling around everywhere and climbing on the baggage trolleys. As we disembarked in LA, he said ‘bye bye’ to all the passengers. I’m still pretty wrecked, but we have a day to recover before the final legs (LA – New York, New York – Oslo). And the longest flight is over already, hurrah.

Go West

In the weeks before we left Norway to come to America, Michael listened to ‘Go West‘ as he walked to work every day. Going west was an adventure, with wonderful parts and difficult parts. It is strange, in the days before we leave here, to be in a place which so soon will only exist for us as memories. I think Michael’s favourite part of being here was all the photo opportunities. The images take on lives of their own, often more resonant with suggestiveness than the moments themselves had been. The dogs panting at the Interstate Oasis, the fierce red rock of Moab, the cross-hatched textures of earth in the Kennecot Copper Mine, and the mountain-tops, lakes and deep forests of the Glacier National Park. Below the fold are images that didn’t make it into earlier posts – a montage of doorways, cars, characters, creatures, and, always, the open road.

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Packing up

Felix has been getting into the spirit of things. No, really. This week, for the first time, he has been all about putting things inside other things. The other night in the bath, he spent a good ten minutes assiduously stuffing his squeezy sheep into a plastic cup, and then immediately scrabbling it out again. Michael, I said, come and look at this! And he sat on the bathroom floor, and we cheered and cheered, amazed at our son putting a toy in and out of a cup, over and over. Clearly a genius. (This is not to discount the pleasure of putting a baby in a box.)

We have only two days left here. We are mostly packed. We’ll ship our last two boxes tomorrow, and somehow fit everything else into our bags (maybe Felix will help). We’ve started cleaning our apartment but there is lots more cleaning to go. It will be a relief to get on the plane, despite the fact a long flight with a nine month old may not be terribly relaxing.

Today was Thanksgiving, and we had dinner with two of the women from my Mom’s group and their families. It was a lovely way to conclude our time here. The Mom’s meetup group has been, for me, one of the best things about being here. They even held a farewell meetup for me on Tuesday; I was so touched.

The past few days I have been walking my familiar paths, stopping in my familiar places, feeling like a ghost of myself.

On Monday we said goodbye to my friend Katya and her daughter Willow, who is almost exactly Felix’s age. Sharing our entry into motherhood over the past six months has been wonderful and I felt so sad after saying goodbye. We have decided to rectify the situation and see each other one more time before we leave. And I do so hope they visit us in Norway someday.

But this time next week we’ll be in Australia. This sounds too good to be true!

Our last trip to Salt Lake City

We couldn’t help but come down here one last time. We may come back one day, but it won’t be for a while. When we were here in May, the snow hadn’t yet melted on the tops of the mountains, and just now it’s begun falling again.

The mountains are covered lightly, so you can still see their textured skin, and the autumn leaves look like frosted glass.

Felix looks like a very big, very warm teddy bear.

More thoughts on Halloween

I was thinking on the weekend that Halloween is great because it’s so different from Christmas and Easter. It’s not about the nuclear family. It’s wild and irreverent. In the middle of winter it feels right to come together quietly and light candles and dream about the return of the light, but this is such a fitting way to mark this particular change in season – a crazy party before it all falls down. A much more urgent affair when you know the winter will be long and harsh. This is something I could barely imagine when I lived in Australia, when autumn always came as such a relief.

Over here is an interview with the wonderful Jeffrey Jerome Cohen about Halloween and monsters. He says:

I really enjoy Halloween, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s not as if I dress up as a monster—actually I don’t, I almost never do. But there’s something about Halloween that’s just celebratory and fun.

The only thing that I’ll say has changed about Halloween for me, as I’ve gotten a little bit older, is it does strike me that—despite all of the fun that happens—Halloween is really also a brooding on our own mortality and that it’s got a deeply sad component to it.

Part of it is trying to overcome a fear of death by having celebration in the face of death. But it’s also an acknowledgement that death is a part of our lives and we don’t get this on any other day. Our contemporary lives are so lived in denial of our own mortality that it’s the one day that it’s actually out there.

Which is true. But for us, this year, it was just a great excuse to dress Felix up as a pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

So far we’ve been loving the build-up to Halloween. We went for a walk this morning around one of the older neighbourhoods here in Idaho Falls so Michael could take some pictures of the decorations.

It is really quite lovely having such a popular celebration of Autumn – it feels like a good thing to do (and it postpones the encroachment of Christmas paraphernalia!). Halloween doesn’t really work in Australia because it is utterly the wrong season.

I don’t get into the really scary stuff, but it is nice to have markers of harvest and the encroaching shadows. The bakery has been flogging its choc-chip pumpkin bread lately, and I must admit I have become a bit of an addict.

Everyone is going completely nuts for candy. In the Walmart there’s a huge aisle devoted to combo pack bags of sweets and chocolate bars, just for Halloween. Michael was there the other night and he says there’s a worker employed full time just to re-stack it, as customers crowd around it like honey bees.

Last night I took Felix to ‘Boo at the Zoo’. The Zoo has special late night opening hours for three nights, and is completely decked out in Halloween decorations. Local businesses are running little stalls handing out candy for trick or treating, and the zoo is utterly over-run with mini pirates and lions and spider-men and witches and ghosts and princesses and strawberries pointing at the animals and lining up for candy.

I’m not sure what the zoo’s regular inhabitants made of it all. Taking Felix in the stroller was the wrong move, as there were so many people we could barely get through the crowds. The turtle’s enclosure was taken over by pumpkins, and the penguin cove was decked out with a pirate theme.

Boo!

Seattle

I just got back from the most beautiful week in Seattle. It was just Felix and me – Michael had to go to Norway for the week so I thought we’d have an adventure rather than sit around in Idaho Falls on our own. And what an adventure it was.

We stayed with my blogfriend Rain from Rainblissed. She and her family made us so welcome that didn’t feel strange at all to turn up at the doorstep of people we’d never met in the flesh before! I felt very proud of Felix and myself for navigating the airports on our own.

We caught the ferry over to Bainbridge Island with Rain and her son Arthur, and stumbled upon a very picturesque pumpkin patch. We frequented some seriously good coffee shops and bookshops, and some fun neighbourhoods and parks. We saw dinosaurs in the Burke Museum next to the University – I liked the tricerotops head but Felix was more interested in the wooden benches in the foyer.

Felix and I caught the bus downtown a couple of days and had a great time at the Pikeplace markets, the crumpet shop and the spiffy new library (Felix appreciated the kids play area, I appreciated the hot chocolate).

I also tried a total of five delicious chocolate cakes. On our last night Rain took us to the delightful Cafe Flora, where I had possibly the most delicious vegetarian meal I had ever eaten – the spectacular Portabello Wellington.

I loved Seattle. All the water gives it space to breathe and it was just so wonderful being in a big city again.

More than anything, though, it was just so special to spend that time with Rain and her family. After being a little overwhelmed to start with Felix had a ball of a time – he loved Arthur’s antics and Gaius’s friendly smiles, and after a couple of days was even happy for Rain to hold him (he’s much pickier about that than he used to be!). He was beside himself with excitement every time he glimpsed their sweet black cat and even managed to pat her once. All the new-to-him toys went down pretty well too. I really hope they visit us in Norway one day. We returned home refreshed and nourished – and not just from all the chocolate cake.

So far in Seattle

Felix’s first ride on a ferry, his first ride on a bus, his first ride in a horse-drawn carriage, his first pumpkin patch (and mine, for that matter), and his first time ever falling asleep in his sling. He was zonked. We’re having an awesome time. I’ve got some great photos but might have to wait before I get back before I post them.

Tired

Since we got back from Montana, it’s all been go here. Michael had a lot of deadlines, and I had one big one. At the same time Michael had a workshop which meant he was home late every night. And then he went away for four days. And now there is a lot to sort out as Michael leaves for a week in Norway this weekend, and Felix and I are flying to Seattle to stay with a blogfriend! I am very much looking forward to that. But the past few days I’ve been so tired I’ve felt like I’ve been walking through treacle. Oh, and Felix decided he wanted to grow two teeth. Which I hope explains his new habit of staying awake for an hour and a half in the early hours of the morning. And I hope it stops soon, too.

It’s sort of cathartic to write it all out – I feel better already. I’ve been enjoying the gorgeous fall weather here in Idaho Falls – it’s cool (and sometimes cold) first thing in the morning, but the sun shines brightly every day and it warms up quickly to the mid-twenties. The mother’s group has continued to be great. Apart from that, I’m just getting a tiny bit bored of the four or five activities I have to choose between to keep Felix happy every day (two coffee shops, a bakery, a walk along the river and the park). Sometimes I try to do them in a different order just to spice things up a bit. He still loves the trains at Barnes and Noble. And he loves the toddler girls in the mothers’ group. They love him too. It’s very rare that I can spend a whole awake period (three hours or so) at home with him – he just gets so restless, but perks up the moment I put him in the stroller.

But we get a new adventure next week! (I am so so so glad – I would have gone completely nuts on my own for a week). And just two months until we leave for two months in Australia. Cannot wait. After that it’s back to Norway and back to work for the tail end of winter. So I must not wish these last two months in the US away – life will be so different once the little guy starts in the barnehage. I have a feeling he will not be very impressed at me leaving him, but I think he’ll like it a lot once he gets used to it – he’s pretty keen on social interaction. Well, better get back to folding the laundry to facilitate our packing…

Sunshine

Just so much warm beautiful shiny sun. Because of the altitude, the sun is quite fierce here – even when the temperature drops a little, in the sun it’s hot. I’m just loving these slightly milder fall days. This feels like the first real summer I’ve had since leaving Australia eight years ago. Apparently the fall can be fickle here – winter can hit with a bang at the beginning of October. But last year it was long and mild, and it looks like this year will be the same.

This morning I went for a walk along the river with the mother’s group. There was about eight of us, all with strollers (several with double strollers!). We stopped at the park half way along for the kids to play. One of the little one and a half year old girls has taken a shine to Felix – she keeps coming up to him and saying his name. He loves it. He is such a social creature. And talking to the other mothers is just so great. It’s such a brilliant group.

Felix prompts conversations wherever we go. He flirts with everyone. This morning an old lady stopped to say hello in town, and then she spotted us again in the bookshop this afternoon. Felix stared and stared at the man setting up his computer at the table next to us, until he relented and started showing us pictures of his family. Felix’s favourite regular acquaintance is one of the barristas in Barnes and Noble. (She loves him too.) He looks forward to seeing her so much that as soon as we stand in line to order drinks he grins and jiggles his legs in anticipation.

I’ve had a madly busy week trying to put the final edits into an article, in between caring for the little guy. The days have been pretty exhausting. But it’s done now. And the sun just shines and shines.

Symphony in the park

Felix and I went to a concert in the park this evening. Michael went to a demolition derby instead. I think we had more fun. The Idaho Falls symphony orchestra played Strauss, Grieg, and Elgar, as well as a couple of American classics. If Strauss counts as Germanic, Felix had a good proportion of his adopted nationalities represented! They just needed a rendition of Waltzing Matilda.The Star Spangled Banner was oddly moving as everyone stood up and put their hand on their heart. I felt conspicuous not doing it (I stood, but left my heart alone). The Land of Hope and Glory could have done with a couple of thousand Brits madly waving Union Jacks Flags, but it was uplifting all the same (apparently here they play it at high school graduations!). The Firefighter’s pipe band also played a few tunes in honour of September 11. If that wasn’t emotional enough the orchestra moved straight onto Grieg. (They love Grieg here, it’s always on the Classical radio station.) So I was on the verge of tears several times but it was a fabulous night. The trees were glowing in the late sunlight, just getting ready to turn golden. Felix thoroughly enjoyed his picnic, eating two rice crackers, two crusts of bread, half a jar of butternut squash and half a jar of pear, making a grand mess. He met a white fluffy dog and a ten month old baby called John. We managed to stay right till then end – an encore of In the Hall of the Mountain King. Just awesome.

A cabin in the woods

Sigh. We had such a great trip! It’s a bit sad to be home again.

We stayed in a cabin just outside of Polebridge, affiliated with the North Fork Hostel. It didn’t have any electricity, which was a really welcome break from the outside world.

Square Peg North Cabin, to be precise. It was awesome. High ceiling, plenty of windows, a loft area, and a fireplace.

Felix had a great time, but was quite concerned about the strange bright crackling creature.

Polebridge itself was tiny but surprisingly lovely.

The Polebridge Mercantile doubled as a bakery, serving a bewildering array of freshly baked pastries (our favourite was the ‘bear claw’).

The Northern Lights Saloon, next door, offered tasty meals, beer in jars, and huckleberry pie.

We were pretty much in heaven.

Another County Fair

Did I mention I am loving Montana? On our way back from the Glacier National Park we are stopping for a few nights in Hamilton, just south of Missoula. It’s a lively farming town with a sweet main street and an awesome microbrewery (we can recommend not only the beer but the black bean burger and the veggie burrito). Our visit happens to coincide with their annual fair, so Michael had a ball of a time snapping up the action.

The animals were beautiful. I felt a little sorry for the shiny fat pigs being auctioned off by their young owners, but it was hard not to get into the spirit of things.

In the Beef pavilion I stopped to read a poster which told the story of the breech birth of a calf – after it stuck its feet out they tried to pull its legs, then they tried chains, and eventually some sort of ‘cow wrench’ did the trick. A teenage boy asked if we had cows too. ‘No,’ I said, ‘but we have a baby’. He didn’t immediately make the connection.

The produce halls and the young people’s exhibits were also entertaining.

I enjoyed strolling past all the side-shows and the rides, reminiscing about my childhood.

My old favourite the Zipper was there in action but I wasn’t tempted. I must be getting old. Michael went back in the evening to see the rodeo and take photos of the shiny lights.

North

We drove a long way north, almost to the Canadian border, to the Glacier National Park.

The mountains, flowers and lakes were stunning

and there were little critters at every turn

(and bigger critters too).

There were seriously big creatures, bears, but we didn’t see any. I didn’t mind. But it made everything just a little bit spooky, knowing there were bears around. There were signs everywhere advising caution, and saying people had been killed in this park. I felt alright in the big open areas, but we did a couple of short walks along some remote lakes off the main tourist trail. The forest was so dense that a bear could have been three feet away and you might not have known it. Apparently a grizzly bear can kill a moose with a single swipe. And I had very precious cargo.

The whole place felt very wild. Like a whole world with its own laws and inhabitants getting on with things. We were only visitors. The deer eyed us calmly.

The squirrel scampered away with its nut.

At Logan pass, the rangers had a telescope out for visitors to look through. I observed the exact same conversation several times (and participated in it once). ‘Is there a bear?’ ‘No, there are Bighorn sheep on the mountain over there.’ ‘Oh’. With the naked eye you could barely pick out the white dots of the sheep’s tails. Disappointed, but unable to resist a telescope, we looked anyway. ‘Oh! Oh wow!’ Because the Bighorn sheep were stunning, sitting completely still, munching sagely – five of them, like statues, like ancient gods.

Heading north

Today we drove north, stopping in Butte, Montana, for lunch and reaching Missoula in the afternoon. Butte is a shabbily picturesque town on a hill. Apparently its airport code is BTM.

It is encroached upon by an enormous retired copper mine, which has been the cause of numerous local environmental disasters. The abandoned mine-shafts are everywhere:

We were pleased to reach Missoula, a groovy little city in the hills, where we danced the night away.

Our next port of call is a cabin without electricity, so I’ll have to report on that after the event.

Felix goes grocery shopping

Felix had his first ride in the front of a shopping trolley today. There are so many unanticipated firsts. He looks very big and brave in the photo but he really did look so tiny there, clinging on and looking around. I was so excited I told the Walmart greeter that it was his first time, and he gave her a big smile. He liked the new angle it gave him on things but he’d had enough after about half an hour (even in the stroller he can only survive for half an hour in Walmart and I can’t blame him). It felt like a big deal. And it was much much easier than pushing the stroller with one hand and trying to balance a basket in the other. Afterwards, he was exhausted.

Sorry for the one dimensional nature of the blog at the moment. There are other things I want to write about and show you, but this feels like the most important one right now.

Earlier in the day we went to storytime. At the moment he just wants to sit at my feet and untie my shoelaces. He got quite annoyed when I tried to lift him onto my lap to join in with the songs!

This evening for the first time he managed to finish his bowl of mashed banana and baby oatmeal.

This past week, sometimes strangers make him cry.

He is getting more and more interested in his board books – he loves to scratch the pictures and whack the pages, and sometimes he tries to turn them.

When he sits and plays with his toys, he likes to put them down as far away as he can reach, leave them for a minute, and pick them up again.

When he’s hungry he lunges at my breast, or munches enthusiastically on my shoulder. If we’re out and about, though, the feed will only last for two minutes max, because the world is far too exciting.

Today he almost almost managed to roll from his tummy to his back, about three times. (He has been able to roll the other way with ease for ages, but noisily demands to be rescued every time.)

Last night just before bedtime he was sitting up in my bed absorbed in a private game. It looked for all the world like he was pretending to pick things up and put them in his mouth, over and over again.

Boise butterflies

I had intended to go to the Basque museum today (there is apparently a lot of Basque culture here in Idaho), but due to a glitch in my map-reading (not unprecedented), we ended up at the zoo instead. A very good thing as it turns out because the zoo is absolutely gorgeous, especially the butterfly house.

Just the most beautiful place. I wasn’t quite coordinated enough to snap a picture of a butterfly sitting on Felix’s hat, but he seemed to enjoy all the flowers and fluttering things.

Boise day 2

Yesterday I fell in love with Boise even a little bit more when I discovered this place by the river. It’s the Log Cabin Literary Center, and they host literary events and writing camps for kids. Awesome.

It’s situated on the greenbelt, right near the art gallery and natural history museum and the zoo, and miles and miles of walking tracks by the river. As Felix is a bit young for writers’ camps yet, we headed on.

We strolled along the river for a bit and then test-drove our new picnic blanket.

Good for rolling and for reading.

It’s actually quite hard to get pictures of Felix doing anything but grinning manically at the camera, because he can be entertaining himself quite nicely but as soon as you pull the camera out he gets a huge glint in his eye and decides he wants to eat it, declaring enthusiastically ‘aha! aha! aha!’

Then we were all tuckered out.

Boise

This morning we drove for four hours past nothing much to get to Boise, the capital of Idaho. At one point we stopped to give Felix a cuddle and a little yellow plane flew past to say hello.

Boise (pronounced Boy-zee) is gorgeous. One of the most livable cities I have ever seen. It reminds us a little of Christchurch. We feel like civilized people again (Idaho Falls is a bit of a scrap-heap in comparison). 

There are coffee shops and interesting shops and buildings and restaurants at every turn, and one of the loveliest things is that the streets are fairly narrow and the blocks really quite small, so walking around is easy and pleasurable.

Felix had a fabulous afternoon lolling around in his stroller and chilling with his parents in various coffee shops. When we stopped for pizza for dinner, he had a great time chewing on a crust. Michael has a conference here for three days and I am so so excited about exploring the place.

It’s all happening at the zoo

Idaho Falls has a lovely small and shady zoo, perfect for sunny mornings. We liked the giant tortoise the best. (This photo is courtesy of my Dad and his telephoto lens.)

We visited with my parents two weeks ago, and Felix and I went back last week. Felix led the way (until he ate the map).

We felt a bit sad for the big animals in the small enclosures, but they seemed happy enough, and the zoo was filled with baby animals, so they must be doing something right. (Michael speculates that the animals get so bored over the winter that all they can do is breed.) There was a baby zebra, a (nearly grown-up) baby snow leopard, various baby mini monkeys, a baby camel with crazy hair, and two beautiful wild cat kittens. They traipsed after their mother hassling for a feed, and when she gave in and flopped down, licking their heads while they ate, I felt quite a connection with her. It was hard to get good photos, but Michael got some nice shots of the lions.

There’s even an Australian enclosure. When I went back this week I watched a black swan chase two emus around, which was a sight I’ve never seen before.

This guy was more Felix’s size.

Breathing

As Felix tumbles closer and closer to his six month birthday, I’m feeling more than usually reflective. Last night I read over some of the posts I wrote during his earliest days. I’m so glad I wrote them. Some of it I would have already forgotten, and even the photographs wouldn’t have brought it all back. It seems I am a hoarder of moments.

Things have been a wee bit stressful around here of late, as I’ve battled through a couple of ‘oh-my-parents-have-gone-back-to-Australia’ and ‘can-I-really-do-this-for-another-four-months’ slumps. The little guy is so constant, and sometimes when he wakes up from his midday nap, I think – how will I get through the afternoon? And I wish I had some family or some old friends I could call in on, but I pull myself together and walk back to the Barnes and Noble.

But after looking at those posts, I felt such a deep sense of calm and reassurance. They were such a lovely time – his first weeks in the world. Together, we had such purpose and focus, such wonder and joy. The house and the snowy landscape curled around us. (Of course, the photos of the snow are so beautiful that the memory edits out how utterly frustrated we were with the treacherous ice.)

The calm came back to me like breathing. Like the breathing I practiced before and during the birth, and during the first painful weeks of breastfeeding. Reminding me to just be present. For my little guy is truly lovely. We are here for four more months and I don’t want to wish this time away.

I can’t believe how small he was and what a different creature he was in the posts in February. And I know in six months time I will be amazed at how small he is now. Very soon I will write another post with everything I want to remember about him right now.

The other thing keeping me afloat is the ‘mom’s meetup group’ here. This week we met in a park one day, and went to the zoo another day, and last night we met in a Mexican restaurant in the evening for a baby shower. It was the first time I’d been out of the house in the evening without Felix. Walking out the door with just a handbag was a ridiculously exciting thing to do, and it was very nice indeed to talk to the other women without also constantly attending to our little ones. Some of us even wore dangly earrings.

Today I bought a new picnic rug with a waterproof back, which will make it much easier to sit under the tree outside our apartment when the grass is wet. And we walked to the park and sat on the new rug, and I read my book and Felix ate his, and the tree above us wriggled all its leaves.

Connections

Felix always wants to be on the go right now. This morning Michael suggested walking to the Barnes and Noble, but I said no, we need a longer outing. We drove into town and walked along the river, then had a coffee. I stopped at the coffee shop a couple of mornings ago and on week mornings the place is packed with lawyers on laptops or mobile phones or meeting with clients. It’s quieter on the weekend. After that we went and bought a loaf of bread from the bakery and felt very – I’m not sure what the word is. Civilized.

We went home and Felix slept for half an hour so we could eat lunch. Then it was all go again and we felt sorry for ourselves for a while because we didn’t have any friends or family to visit. So we went to the Barnes and Noble after all. One of the baristas knows me quite well now, and always has a smile for Felix (she says she likes seeing me come in, obviously having walked there instead of driving like everyone else). Felix always has a smile for her too. He is addicted to attention. He can be as grumpy and restless as anything at home but as soon as a new person smiles at him, he beams, coyly looks down, then beams again and flaps his arms around. I had a cup of tea and splurged on a chocolate cheesecake, and Michael took Felix for a stroll for quarter of an hour so I could read my book. Bliss.

Every five minutes or so there was an announcement of a meet-the-author book-signing going on at the front of the store. When Michael came back he said you should go and talk to that author, no one is talking to him except for strange people. So I wriggled Felix into the sling and off I we went. His name was Debu Majumdar, an Indian man who’s lived here in Idaho Falls for thirty years. He’s written a children’s book about India (he told me he thinks American children need educating about the rest of the world), and a book of essays detailing his impressions of Idaho Falls: From the Ganges to the Snake River. He could tell I wasn’t from around here either, so we had a bit of a chat about why we were here and where we were from. When I mentioned we lived in Norway, he said ‘oh yes, Halden’, and I said ‘What, how did you know?’ It turns out he works in the nuclear industry too.

So Michael came back to talk to him, and bought his book, and he gave us his contact details and told us we should meet up sometime. His book looks great. It made our day.

Dear Felix (a guest post)

Dear Felix,

It’s just over 2 weeks ago your Granddad and I boarded a plane in Adelaide to visit you and your parents. We were very excited.

It’s been so special to spend time with you while you are still a baby, though not so small as when I first met you.  We’ve played and cuddled, talked and watched you eagerly explore your world. You are particularly fascinated by patterns, edges and textures, and delight in reaching out to scritch-scratch a new surface, especially if it makes a sound.  The puzzle in your eyes is obvious as you attempt to put together what you can see with what your fingers feel, moving them back and forth curiously over whatever has caught your eye, such as a smooth table top with a woodgrain pattern that looks as if it should feel rough. You also love to watch your fingers and hands and move them slowly and seemingly deliberately, 1 finger at a time and then altogether, as if you are trying to memorize how to move each one.

Your shining eyes, cheeky grin and infectious chuckle charm not only us, but many passers-by at whom you beam when you catch their eye. “What a cute baby!” they say, and you smile again. You are constantly talking to us all: squeals of delight, and strongly expressed protest or frustration intermingle with the intonation of your own special language, sung to yourself, or in a commentary to whoever is near. Within a day or two of us arriving you were making a very passable copy of your granddad’s chronic cough, and seeming very pleased with yourself when you tried it out!

And so we have watched and joined in the endless fascination with the everyday details of your eager learning and connection with those who love you, especially of course your Mum and Dad, (who are doing such a wonderful job of caring for you).  It has been such a delight to re-enter that time, first experienced as new parents ourselves, and to also see your Mum, our first baby, experiencing the same delight with you, that she brought to us.

This chance to dip into your new world brings so many thoughts and memories flooding in. We are already so in love with the unique little person that is you, and I marvel at this ever repeating miracle of each baby with their unique new life bringing new promise, joy and love into families across the generations and around the world. It’s mind-blowing.

But for us, the particular miracle that is unfolding in our family right now is you, and we are so glad to be welcoming you into our lives.

With ever so much love, your grandma Robi, and granddad Gren xx

Moab

The tourist town of Moab is dwarfed by the red rock that surrounds it.

Here you can stock up on fuel, grab lunch or an ice-cream (we recommend the Brewery for both), stay in a cheap motel,

browse trinket shops

(some of which are doing better than others)

and shelter from the heat.

If you feel like a coffee, though, you must go here. The Moab Coffee Roasters roast their own beans, and without a doubt serve the nicest coffee I’ve tasted since arriving in the US. It was so strong that it gave me a headache later in the day, but it was worth it.

Red rock

We just got back from a very lovely week in Utah. After introducing my parents to some of the joys of Salt Lake City, we headed down to the truly spectacular national parks near Moab. We first visited here three years ago, and it was just magical to return. The Colorado river runs through the canyon lands, and although I suppose the Grand Canyon is more spectacular, visiting Moab is actually more fun, for the sheer variety of the landscapes, and the way the rock formations startle you at every turn, like some fantastic playground. (And it is with some wistfulness that I read of this conference on stone, having just spent time among stones that seem so very alive.)

This rock oozes,

swells,

cracks,

crumbles.

The colours collide.

Felix goes nuclear

We took a drive yesterday out to what all the locals refer to as ‘the site’. It’s an area of top secret highly guarded research nuclear reactors, and one old one that’s been turned into a museum. It’s the place where they first successfully generated nuclear electricity. Felix was in heaven, with all the lights and knobs, the high concrete ceiling and scaffolding and pipes and dials and buttons and switch and fans. He kept craning his head around and laughing spontaneously. He couldn’t believe it.

You’d trust him in a control room, right?

Of course I know what I’m doing – why do you ask?

Books and places

I’ve just started reading Hilary Mantel’s Experiment in Love, and it’s making me nostalgic for England:

In summer, when I was a small girl, we would take a bus to the outskirts of town, and walk in the hills, rambling along the bridle paths in clear green air. We were above the line of the mill chimneys; like angels, we skimmed their frail tops (p. 11).

Of course, I was nostalgic for England even before I ever visited there (not counting being born there), having grown up with tales of the old country from my father and my Nanna. Now, however, the nostalgia is my own – for that wonderful first year in York which I had set aside for adventure, and the wonderful years after that, enjoying the town and the countryside with Michael. Ah, England in summer, with thick green grass, and little stone walls…

Incidentally I think I am developing a crush on Hilary Mantel (after loving Wolf Hall last year) and intend to read every one of her novels…

Last night I finished Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which impressed and intrigued me. Its communistic leanings are especially fascinating given the intense anti-communist, individualist sentiments here that I am only now beginning to get a feel for. I had no idea that if you earned more money here you don’t get into a higher tax bracket, for example. Back to the novel, however… I really enjoyed his descriptions of landscape and animals – especially the animals – and I liked his characters so much that when I got half way through I didn’t want to keep reading for fear of bad things happening to them. Towards the end, though, the characters seemed to become more symbolic, and you got the sense he was really laboring to make his point. (Almost like the didactic sections of War and Peace.) Still, I enjoyed it greatly and am keen to read East of Eden at some point. The last paragraph really took me by surprise – extreme breastfeeding, anyone?

In non-book related news, I am really enjoying life here at the moment. Felix’s night-time sleeping has deteriorated badly, so I’ve been quite tired, but am feeling much more zen about it just now. There is a really fantastic mother’s group which meets up several times a week in different places, and I’ve been enjoying getting to know a bunch of really interesting women and their children. If I want the car for the day I need to drop Michael at work in the morning, but he works only five minutes away from the downtown river walk, so my new routine is to drop him off and then park at the river for a walk before the day heats up too much. Felix naps, breastfeeds with a view of the waterfalls, and often has a roll around on his blanket on the grass afterwards. When we’re at home my main task at the moment is flipping him onto his back – he rolls onto his tummy, has a look around, gets stuck, then complains loudly. Repeat. Though today at the river he did manage to roll back the other way twice, with a bit of help from the slope of the ground.

Most excitingly, my parents are on their way over here and should arrive tomorrow night. I can’t wait!

Speaking of reading, here is Felix having a go at the Sunday paper, aged 20 weeks:

Felix and the paragliders

We took Felix to meet the paragliders this morning. (Yep, we’re back in Salt Lake City for the long weekend. You can’t keep us away!) He was very happy strutting about in his sling with his sunnies on. That’s Michael to the left of my right shoulder.

Here he is launching. I thought about having a go but the wind was pretty strong, and this primal maternal instinct kicked in that said: stay on the ground with your baby!

I intend to conquer this instinct soon, and did manage a little hop from lower down the slope before we left. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to be up there?

Bluegrass

I feel I was a bit harsh on poor old Idaho Falls in the last post. We’ve been here a month now, and wandering around the Downtown/Greenbelt areas today, I felt myself becoming fond of the place. I stumbled across a bluegrass festival on the river. It was awesome.

Sitting on the lawn listening to the music reminded me of the happiest weekends of my adolescence – our annual pilgrimage to the Port Fairy Folk Festival. (The Port Fairy Folk Festival was like an alternative universe – the smell of incense, the gypsy clothing, the heavenly music. I used to dream of running away with my penny-whistle to join a folk band, and I would spend days choosing the dangly beaded earrings I would buy each year.) Felix liked it too.

Well, ok, he was smiling at me there. But he didn’t mind hanging out on the grass and listening to music for an hour or so.

We also did a long walk along the river and saw ducklings,

the Mormon temple,

and the last vestiges of spring. The day was cloudy but warm, and only a little windy. I am getting used to the wind, anyway.

Historic Downtown

We went for a walk downtown last night and Michael captured the spirit of the place.

Yep.

Well, it wasn’t all that bad. There’s a bridal hire shop:

A historic eagle (the town was originally known as Eagle Rock):

A few back streets:

And a jewelers trying to cash in on the cupcake trend:

Well, that was our initial impression. As with many American towns, the centre of activity has been displaced by shopping malls. But the walking path along the river is gorgeous. And we also discovered a very nice bakery (not the best coffee but amazing cookies), a couple of great restaurants, and a handful of interesting shops, once you find the right street.

Brown and grey

There really are a lot of parking spaces around here. Also, whoever designed the decor for our sunless apartment was not having a good day when they decided on brown on brown. All the furniture is heavy dark wood. The carpet is beige. The bedspreads are brown. The bed itself has a huge wooden end to it which has caused me several nasty bruises, all on top of each other (admittedly, not for a while, I must be getting used to it). The apartment is decorated with faux plants, including an entire little tree in the bedroom, which we didn’t even notice for the first couple of weeks. I miss my sunny kitchen.

Luckily the weather is getting nicer around here and we have decided that as an antidote to brown we will spend as much time outside as possible. I see many walks, parks and picnics in our future. We went to a lovely BBQ last night and I spent most of the day making a cake to take along. “The world’s best cake”, to be precise. It lives up to its name.

A day at the river

Finally we had beautiful weather – and not too much wind – all day! I tried exploring the ‘Historic Downtown’ district of Idaho Falls, but didn’t find much apart from decrepit buildings and attorney offices. And a very impressive public library, but it turns out that you have to pay $64 a year for a library card. What is this strange country, that charges for public libraries? So I ended up at the river, which was perfectly lovely. I walked past a Mormon temple:

and a water tower:

but the sweetest thing I saw was this little guy:

Felix was quite impressed with the pinecone:

He’s really got the hang of grabbing onto things and stuffing them into his mouth the past couple of days, but I didn’t want him eating the pinecone  just yet. After all that activity Felix had a long sleep in his pram while I read a book beneath the trees. Bliss.

Sixteen weeks

You’ve certainly had a big week, little guy. Yesterday we tried you out in your new hiking backpack at Mesa falls – you’re only just big enough, but you were ok for a short walk, and you liked looking around.

This week you’ve discovered so many new sounds to make – and you speak to us in indecipherable baby sentences, complete with intonation. You’re particularly impressed with a sort of squeak you’ve learnt to make. With much concentrated effort, you’ve also learnt to grab hold of your toes, and even to roll over onto your belly! You are very serious about these accomplishments, and practice them assiduously. You make us laugh and you laugh right back at us. We are flabbergasted at your new skills. I know it’s the same for parents everywhere, and not particularly exciting for anyone else to hear about, but you truly give us so much joy.

You’re not so keen on sleeping for long stretches over night any more, however. Michael says: ‘It will get better. Don’t worry, I had a great sleep last night.’ ‘Oh’, I said, ‘I’m glad to hear it.’

Kennecott copper mine

The last few times we were in Salt Lake City, we said to ourselves – we really should go have a look at that copper mine. But we didn’t do it till last weekend. It was a good time to go, with the snow powdering the upper terraces. When they had the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, all the medals were made with metal from the mine.

I started writing this last night when Felix woke up (after sleeping all of ten minutes) and decided he wanted to cry for three hours (with short bursts of being consoled by me). Eventually I took him for a walk in the cold, windy night (it’s so windy here!), and this distracted him enough that he went to sleep when we came home. While we were out I stopped for a hot chocolate at the cupcake shop. It was so sweet that I could only drink half of it. Today, at the Barnes and Noble, I overheard someone ordering a chocolate coconut cappuccino.

Anyway, here are a couple more pictures of the mine. I love how the huge trucks look like matchbox toys. Michael has been away at a conference all week and boy am I ready for him to come home tonight.