Easter at home

Thought I’d better do something about the lack of content here. I’m still only taking photos on my phone (something I plan to fix within the next month) but these are better than nothing. This morning Antonia totally bailed on the Easter egg hunt (she’s not into sweet things and couldn’t see the point) but Felix declared today to be one of the best days of his life. He woke up early and put two fleeces on and went for a solo ‘expedition’ with Whitby to the forest to check if Easter Bunny had been yet. She hadn’t. Luckily Easter Bunny managed to sneak out quietly before making waffles.

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Easter starts early in Norway (it’s closer to a week than a weekend) and it’s been so lovely to have this time to potter around with the kids. It’s been filled with everything good: gardening, hiking, crafting, baking, reading, knitting, hanging out with friends, and wandering down to our little beach. With some cleaning and sorting thrown in as well. At times (especially Friday, when Antonia had a fever all day) there has been a bit too much screen time for the kids, but it’s always worth it when we manage to peel them away. Michael’s been making a real effort to take Felix hiking – he complains a bit but I think he’s getting better. We’ve been pushing Antonia a bit too, though if we make her walk anywhere it’s slow going as she likes to roll around on the ground every 20 metres or so…

It hasn’t been entirely without challenges but on the whole it’s been really nice, and exactly what we needed. We finally sold our old house on Tuesday, and we had a somewhat stressful few days of emptying our loft and basement before we handed over the keys. (We’ve thrown a lot of stuff away but are still not sure where to put everything, so will have to get rid of a bit more.) But it’s been so nice just to slow down and hang out with the kids and enjoy being here. I remember really enjoying staying in Norway for Easter two years ago, when Antonia was still a baby. We tend to try to get to Germany for Easter, but last year that was so gruelling that we’ve decided to take a break from that particular endeavour. It’s just not warm enough yet to make it easy to hang out there with the kids.

Also it is just so lovely to get the chance to cultivate a few of our own traditions. We’ve never spent Christmas in our own house with the children (in fact we’ve only ever spent Christmas in our own house once, when I was eight months pregnant with Felix). So it feels special to have this time just for ourselves, to have an egg hunt, to make the hot cross buns. You can’t buy them here and Easter just isn’t the same for me without them. Felix helped make them so they are quite rustic to look at but they were delicious. They have orange rind, apple pieces, sultanas, dried apricots and cranberries inside, and plenty of spices. We spent last Easter dreaming about this house and deciding to try to buy it – we had a look at it the day before we left for Germany, and bought it the day we returned. I looked out of the window this morning and saw a squirrel preening itself on a tree branch. It is good to be here.

Yesterday we walked down to the beach after dinner. The sun had come out. We had to pester Felix terribly to get him out of the house, but as soon as we got to the beach he saw that the little wooden landing was in the water again, and he clambered out to it straight away, deciding that it was a magical vehicle that could be a boat or a plane or a car. Antonia was more or less happy to go with his storyline (“you’re fishing in the air now, Antonia, not the water, we’re flying.” “Ok”). He navigated us to magic land and cloud land and beach land, fetching rocks to throw into the water to get the “bad guys”. And it was pretty perfect.

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We took these photos just before bath time tonight when I realised I didn’t have any photos from the week. Come into the hallway where the best light is, said Michael, after I snapped a blurry one of Felix at the dining room table. Both photos feature Michael’s new toy, lego TARDIS. Both children are entranced. Antonia is not really allowed to play with it, but I noticed she was being very quiet and when I went to check on her she was sitting up to the table, making the little lego Dr Who figures climb up and down the TARDIS stairs.

This weekend was considerably better than last weekend, but I am STILL SICK with sinus pain, headache, a nasty sore throat, and a low grade fever. I am somewhat fed up and steeling myself to get some writing done this week despite feeling groggy. I managed to take the kids swimming on Saturday morning which they enjoyed. Antonia was happy to wear her floaties around her arms (like Felix does) but refused to go in her ring. She did manage to swim around for a little while on her own with the floaties on, even twisting in a circle, before getting a mouthful of water and needing assistance. After her nap we went to the local shopping centre and had a coffee, bought some photo frames and a few groceries. Felix found the shopping cart shaped like a car and was gracious enough to let Antonia sit in it, when I warned him that was not negotiable. The only problem was trying to get her out of it, later.

Today some friends came over in the afternoon, and my achievement for the day was this black forest inspired chocolate sponge cake, with cream, cherries, and cream mixed with chocolate. I used this recipe for the sponge and it was delicious.

Now it’s nine o’clock and I’m going to bed, to see if an early night can help me kick this thing. Good night!

 

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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.

Four

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Happy birthday to my dearest four year old, who whoops with delight at his bright green ice cream cake, then blows each candle out gently, one by one, then insists that everyone tastes it, and checks that we can save a piece for Grandma. Who makes friends with ‘little guys’ in playgrounds and cafes in two seconds flat, but is nearly too scared to listen to a picture book about little chicks and a fox, and then listens anyway, his hands over his ears. We couldn’t have invented you. We love you so.

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We had pretty much the perfect day on Felix’s birthday last Friday. I stayed up past midnight the night before re-building the trackmaster Thomas tracks he received for Christmas, as his most dearly held wish for his birthday was more ‘plastic trains’, and he would need to be able to try them out immediately. (This is a feat about 20 times as complicated as it sounds, but I can say that now I’m a pro.) He unwrapped his presents on the steps in the morning. ‘Plastic Charlie! . . . ‘Plastic Emily!’

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Mum had most of the day off so we took him to the Royal Copenhagen ice cream shop in Brighton for a pancake and ice cream breakfast. ‘We should come here again’, he said, whilst polishing off substantial portions of his chocolate smeared crepe, strawberries and chocolate ice cream. He then made friends with a little girl and sat in the window seat with her pushing his little car back and forth.

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It was then time for sandcastles, a swim and a wander on the jetty, before lunch and heading back home to play. My Grandparents came over for a simple dinner. Felix was absolutely adorable the entire time. He didn’t even kick up a fuss when he realised he had received his final present. After dinner we were all sitting downstairs and he said to my Grandparents: ‘Will you come to my birthday next year in Norway?’ My Granddad started to explain that it was a bit far away, but Grandma interrupted: ‘Peter, don’t say that. Of course.’

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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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Six weeks with my Mum

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Mum left yesterday. It is always sad to say goodbye. Felix says, paraphrasing one of his favourite books: ‘we are sad when the dawn comes and we have to part. But we can meet again.’ The book, which is about the friendship of a duck and a mushroom creature who lives deep within the earth, goes on to point out that even when we are far apart, sometimes just thinking of each other makes us happy. Thinking about my Mum makes me happy.

We had the most gorgeous six and a bit weeks together. Two weeks before Antonia was born of long evening walks, playing with Felix, visiting Stromstad and Fredriskstad, and frequenting of coffee shops. And then an whole month following Antonia’s birth, involving baby cuddles, more playing with Felix, picnics in the forest and by lakes, adventures at the fortress, clothes shopping for us and the children (how much fun it is to buy baby girl clothes!), returning to Stromstad and Fredrikstad with our babe, and many, many more coffee shops. Mum also helped with cooking. washing, waking up early with Felix nearly every day, and completely sorted out some very messy patches of our garden, taking away a dead bush, planting trees, shrubs, and spreading pine bark.

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A second baby does not enable the same quiet cocooning that I experienced with my first. Everyone told me a second baby is easier, and this is true and not true – yes I already knew how to look after a newborn, but looking after a newborn AND and an exhuberant, curious three year old at the same time is a new adventure. Adding to the excitement, Felix had not one but four medical emergencies during Antonia’s first month home! Two asthma incidents requiring ventolin inhalations at the emergency department in the middle of the night, one tick bite behind his ear which got infected and neede two weeks of strong antibiotics, and to top it all off, a pea getting stuck up his nose. The whole family (apart from Antonia and me, thankfully) also had terrible colds for the first two weeks of Antonia’s life, so energy levels suffered. The lowest point was two days after we returned from my hospital, just as my milk was coming in. I was exhausted, in pain (those who told me breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt a second time were wrong indeed), Mum and Michael were sick and Felix was coughing up a storm and getting more and more distressed. I sat on the toilet sobbing, while Michael took care of Felix. Mum asked if I was ok. ‘No!’ I said. ‘Everyone’s sick. I’m going to get sick, and Antonia’s going to get sick, and I’m going to get mastitis.’ ‘It will be ok,’ said Mum, ‘just remember it’s your hormones talking.’ I had a shower, and felt better. Antonia and I didn’t get sick, I didn’t get mastitis, and the cold going around was just a cold (despite Felix’s asthma), not some lethal virus which could hurt my baby.

Two nights before Mum’s departure Felix’s asthma saga reoccured (he gets it every time he has a cold). Michael was away for the week. We had two trips to the emergency department over night (first Mum, then me), then at 9 in the morning Felix was still in terrible form so I took him to his normal doctor who sent us on to the hospital. Luckily he stabilized on the way over, but we still spent the day there, having tests done and getting another inhalation for him. I was so, so pleased Mum was with me. As Felix sat in his bath after we got home that evening, he said – ‘but we didn’t have an adventure!’ ‘Oh’, said Mum and I, ‘I think we did.’

But the rest of the time was truly lovely. It was wonderful having Mum with us during the first weeks of Antonia’s life. Four weeks is long enough for a little personality to emerge. Rare smiles and long serious stares and little ‘hnnnnn hnnnn’s. Long enough for a baby to grow round and soft. Antonia squeaks with delight as she lies on her change mat and looks across at the picture of the baby on the pack of diapers. Over the past week, she has been genuinely pleased every time she sees my Mum – she smiles, and looks intently, purses her little lips, and coos.

In less than three months we’ll be in Australia for an extended holiday, so Felix is right when he says ‘we can meet again’. But I’ll always remember this special, special time of Mum being with us as we became a family of four. A time, after all, of quietness, love and adventures. As Mum’s stay drew to a close, we found ourselves consciously repeating things we’d done before, to close out the circle. On Tuesday, on Antonia’s one month birthday, we went back to the very same cafe in Gamlebyen where we had eaten lunch the day of my overdue control, just hours before Antonia’s birth. And yesterday, we took Felix back to the cafe in the harbour where we had taken Mum the day she had arrived, and then we all walked her across to the train station together. I cried. I feel so very looked after.

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Sun enough to last

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A week and a half ago, just after my parents and grandparents left to make their way back home, I felt the first hint of autumn in the air. The whole of July was just the most blissful, glorious summer, and it won’t be forgotten. I’ve been very busy since they left preparing for teaching which starts on Monday. There are a couple of nerves of course and a crazy amount of stuff to do, which won’t let up till late December, but I am so excited about it all. More later. But I wanted to share some of my favourite photos. There will be more to come, if I manage to squeeze some time out of my evenings to post them.

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We had the best time with my parents and grandparents. One of the sweetest things to see was Felix’s reaction when he saw my Mum. ‘Damma!’ (Grandma!) he exclaimed, and raced into the lift which she hadn’t even had the time to step out of, and gave her the most enormous hug. Felix only ever hugs his favourite people. I was so pleased that weekly skype chats are enough to ensure my Mum is one of them.

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The place pictured above had the most amazing play area.

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Poppa was also a huge favourite – especially his carefully chosen bag of tricks that was raided every time we went out to dinner. Here they are watching a digger.

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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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Sixteen months: brought to you by balls, bubbles, puddles

In a couple of days, my darling, you will turn sixteen months old. You amaze us every day. You make us laugh. A couple of times this week you stretched your normal 6am wakeup to 4.30 am, which we weren’t exactly thrilled about, but as you smiled at us sweetly, your father had to ask ‘could you be any cuter?’ You took your first steps over a month ago but it has only been in the past couple of days that you’ve been comfortable just walking around everywhere without having to think about it too much. I think it’s made you much more relaxed in general. Today you were running in circles around your father in the kitchen, giggling.

Your latest words are ‘shut’, and ‘keys’. You are quite frustrated when doors are shut, but at least you have a word for it now. You are pretty much obsessed by songs with actions, and there are several we watch together on youtube every day, in addition to songs that go with your boardbooks, songs you learn in barnehage, and songs we sing in the car and in the bath. Some of your favourites right now are ‘Down at the station’, ‘Insy Wincy Spider’, and a very silly one on youtube called ‘Uh-huh’ (actually you really like all the youtube clips from Super Simple Songs). You adore your books and have taken to toddling off to pick the one you want to read next and bringing it back to me. Your favourites at the moment are any with flaps to lift, and any about trains. You love pointing out animals and practicing your animal sounds.

This weekend your parents were a bit grumpy and tired, but together we turned it all around. As it was raining today and we couldn’t think of anything else to do, we went across to the big shopping centre in Sweden again. Your father bought you hundreds of balls. When you discovered them after your nap, you couldn’t believe it. ‘Ba! ba!’ you said, tottering over to them and plonking yourself in.

Later I made us a cake. I turned 33 this week and took two of these cakes to work on my birthday, but I decided we needed one all to ourselves. It turns out a family of three can demolish a sponge roll in one sitting, even if one family member is less than a meter tall. (It’s also probably time a sponge roll featured on my blog again. Our new oven is better for baking than our old one. I’m always tempted to try out variations such as chocolate and raspberries, but I will record here for posterity that you cannot beat a sponge roll with strawberries and cream.) You insisted on eating your piece with a spoon. Mermos was also impressed and snuck in through the kitchen window to lick up the cream.

Just before your bedtime, the sun finally came out, so we headed into the garden. You ran around the trampoline for a while and had a poke in the sandpit, but got frustrated trying to walk on the lawn in your gumboots so I took you over to the driveway. Oh my. We have the best puddles. The cats couldn’t quite work out why you wanted to stand in the middle of them.

I remember a card my Mum had sent me half way through my pregnancy, with a photo of a little boy toddling down a lane. And it’s hard to say exactly what I felt, except that it was somehow momentous, seeing you stamp around your very first chain of perfect puddles, and pick yourself up when you fell.