Forest, light, twigs

Late Saturday afternoon we all walked down to our little beach. Antonia needed some coaxing, but once we got there she was in her element. Straight away she sourced herself a long stick to go ‘fishing’ with, and sat poking the water for a long time, in between finding stones to throw in, and stones for me too. This was a welcome change from every other time we’ve been there, when I have been responsible for sourcing the stones. She even let me have a turn of her fishing rod. Felix, who had raced ahead, and sat pensively on a bench looking out over the water by the time we arrived,  was disappointed that all the ice had melted. But he quickly decided that climbing up all the rocks would be worthwhile anyway, and scrambled around the place on his own for a while before convincing Michael to join the rock scaling adventure. We watched the yellow light on the water as the sun dipped behind the hills on the other side of the fjord.

Today we had a picnic in the little patch of forest right next to our house. Michael strung up two hammocks he had brought back from America, and lit a little twig stove to toast marshmallows. It was just. so. good. Like camping, or being on holiday, but only one minute from our garden. Antonia got a little stroppy around nap time (I don’t bother trying to get her down anymore, but sometimes you can see she needs it), but she redeemed herself later, finding a ‘salad’ for me of twigs and leaves. She insisted on going out again just before bed – she dresses herself in her snowsuit, boots and hat, and heads out the door. She instructed me on when to walk and when to follow, where to put the pinecones she found for me, and then sat down with a stick on her lap, pretended it was some kind of musical instrument, and sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I had to do it too.

It’s light till half past six now. It feels like a different world.

Apart from this I cleaned and did laundry, which felt overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but now I feel so much better. Felix helped by spontaneously tidying up the family room so I could vacuum. The house was in chaos from Michael being away for eight days, back for two, then away again for two (he got back on Friday night), and we were both exhausted and near the end of our tether. But it is better now. It was so good to be outside in the forest all together. There is some kind of grace in this place. It is good to be here.

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Felix: posing at a mock castle with Michael’s SLR – Felix had such fun taking photos on our holiday (another post to follow soon, hopefully).

Antonia: loving the beach at Schonberg Strand, near Kiel, on our last day in Germany.

We had a fabulous time in Germany (or Deutchland, as Felix insists), and got home last Sunday. I have so many photos to share with you but our internet is broken! I am snatching ten minutes of internet time in a cafe while Antonia naps in her stroller.

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

Munchkins by the sea

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It’s the tail-end of a long weekend here and I’m pleased to report that we did something fun outside every day. On Friday we went to an outdoor kids day in the forest with some friends, and Felix got to shoot an airgun. (With some help from me and careful supervision from the experts.) There were other activities as well, mostly aimed at slightly older kids. It was a little stressful as we weren’t sure how it all worked and to be honest we have a preference for quiet trips to the forest, but I’m glad we went, and I’d be game to go again next year. We took the camera but didn’t have the right card in it, so no photos.

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Yesterday I took the kids to the harbour in the morning (see previous post), and today we went with some German friends to a beach in Sweden. I had tried to meet them there nearly two years ago and got lost on the way, so this time I made sure we followed them.

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Felix had a wonderful time hopping on the rocks, peering at the shrimp that our friends caught in the net, and trying to build a dam in a little stream.

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It was also a good weekend for baking: waffles, scones, pancakes and ANZAC biscuits, as well as a delicious vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and Michael mowed the lawn.

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We tend to fall into a rut and just do the same old things, so I’m glad with a little encouragement from our friends we tried out a couple of different things. I also managed to play with Felix a couple of times – this doesn’t sound like much but too often I get to the end of a day which has been punctuated by repeated requests to play with him, and find that I have not. So during Antonia’s first nap this morning instead of saying immediately ‘no I can’t – I need to do this first…’, I said ‘ok’, when he told me we would play with the digger and the truck. He drove the tiny digger around on the mini truck, and it was my job to dig the holes. ‘What are you going to dig, Mummy?’ ‘A foundation for the new town hall,’ I said, remembering Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, which Mum has read to Felix lots of times. So we dug lots of foundations and used the magnet shapes to build buildings on top of them, and it was lovely. rosso3

I felt a bit flat and aimless at the beginning of last week, but I managed to turn it around, making sure I spent time with friends and their children. On Thursday I took Antonia to an ‘open’ barnehage – a place with kindergarten facilities but you can’t leave kids there – you have to stay and play with them. She was badly in need of some new stimulation and she had a ball – I’ll definitely go again this week. Everyone keeps saying to enjoy this time before I go back to work, so I have decided that I will. And it is so nice on a Sunday evening to have the memories of the silvery light on the water and the little balls of seaweed, and the clear air all around.

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Waves

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The days are tiring and lovely but what remains constant is the near impossibility of a moment to oneself. The moments lap in and out like waves, like tides.

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The children grow, one minute, one day at a time. They do things for the first time, or the last time, and they need me, despite disappearing for short periods into sleep or revery or delight in racing or dust or games on Grandma’s ipad.

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Antonia is a calm and happy baby but not one for sleeping long stretches. Felix is clever and challenging and (mostly) delightful – he feels so intensely and wants to understand everything. He can’t keep still for a moment.

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I’m enjoying being here and being able to share them with my family, who adore them. The weather is so gorgeous here, a lot of the time I feel that I never want to leave. And then I remember my little house, my own space, and know that at some point I will be ready to return.

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The week before Christmas we stayed with my parents at a beach house and it was so special – Felix had a ball.

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Walking along the edge of the surf, Antonia sleeping at my chest, Felix and Michael absorbed in their sand tunnels, I felt for a moment adrift in time – it could have been fifteen years ago, before I moved to Europe, before I’d met any of them. I walked away from Michael and Felix, along the beach. The waves hissed. Beaches are so timeless, sand water sky.

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And then I turned and walked back, to my beautiful, difficult, exuberant boys, the daughter I as yet barely know snuggly strapped to my chest.

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Summer holidays

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It’s really hot here at the moment and Felix and I have had the most gorgeous time this week – mostly down at the lake. The past two days I’ve even been swimming myself in the freezing water. And I don’t have a lot of time or energy to write much now but I wanted to write something, before it evaporates. Most evenings I’ve been going for long walks alone along the dusky summer streets (it’s light till 11). It’s my favourite part of the day. I’m pretty active chasing after Felix all day, but there’s something so incredibly lovely about being able to walk at your own pace.

Today in the kitchen, Felix said – ‘The baby is very round, Mummy. Will it be round when it comes out?’

And yesterday, stark naked astride his bicycle in our lounge-room, he said: ‘Some people speak Norwegian. Mummy speaks English. Daddy speaks German. But I only speak… nonsense!’ Which, given the exuberant mood he’s been in for the past two weeks, is about right.

Though today he offered to put sunscreen on my back for me. ‘I may not be as fast as you,’ he said, ‘but I’m very strong.’ That’s a quote from Thomas the Tank Engine, but incredibly sweet. ‘Do you ever run out of steam, Mummy? What happens if you run out of steam at the shops? I could pull you.’

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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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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.

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I am trying to put up lots of beach photos, so I have something to remind me of all this sun when we are settling in to a currently unfathomable Norwegian winter in, gulp, a week’s time.

Last weekend we went down to Port Elliot with my parents on Sunday, and spent a lovely couple of hours splashing around, before devouring the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted.