Adventures

We had pretty much the perfect evening. After dinner on our deck (mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, meatballs for the kids and yesterday’s pasta sauce – supplies are running low) Michael suggested we put the picnic rug down on the lawn and soak up the sun. So we did. And Felix ran and jumped off our big rock – watch me! Look at my new trick! And Antonia tried the same – watch me! My new trick! She couldn’t manage to jump off the rock (thankfully) but climbed up and slid down on her bum. And then we all ran races back and forth and the kids were stralende (glowing, radiant – not sure if this is the correct way to use it but for some reason this word seems perfect). Ah so so nice.

And tomorrow I’m off to Stockholm with my baby girl, for a conference, along with one of my favourite colleagues, and I’m going to meet my Mum there! Michael’s excited about a boy’s week at home (has never happened before). My conference paper has had great difficulty attracting my attention over the past couple of weeks (and still does), but it’s not till Friday, so all will be well. Happy. Happy. Happy. 11 pm and the sky is still pink. But yeah, better finish packing my bag.

Settling in

So the new house has lots of outside spaces to play in. One morning shortly after we moved in I walked into the hallway to find Felix solicitously putting Antonia’s shoes on so they could play together outside. We’ve been here two weeks now and the weather has been gorgeous and we’ve been outside a lot. And we’ve instituted a new rule of not leaving our computers lying around and not having them turned on when the kids are around. (Screen time was getting a bit out of control.) After just a couple of days they’ve completely stopped asking to watch anything, and as well as hanging out outside a lot we’re reading more books and making more puzzles, and it is good.

newhouse4newhouse5

A very nice birthday

mybirthday2

Even my garden gave me a birthday present – all its flowers opened up over the past week, just in time. Michael got afternoon tea ready. Antonia learned how to sing happy birthday (she likes to sing it to me as long as I sing it to her too), and Felix reminded everyone that we needed to sing it, and insisted that I have the first piece of cake. My gorgeous friends threw a surprise picnic for me last weekend, no less. I’m feeling fortunate, and feeling loved.

mybirthday3

18.52

swing1swing2

I’m cheating a little, because I took these photos last Sunday, not the week before. I meant to take some the week before, but couldn’t get the camera operational in time. It would have been the same photo but in better light (evening, not morning), and the kids were wearing their fleece-lined raincoats. It’s gone from really quite cold to really quite hot over night.

Antonia is obsessed with Felix right now and wants him to do everything for her. Strap her into the stroller. Push her in the swing. ‘Gegick, push!’ she cries. ‘Gegick, come!’

Today it is two weeks until we get the keys to our new house. Soon we need to start packing. This weekend, I suppose. I am very excited about our new place but it is strange to think we will leave here. The blossoms are out in our garden. We’ve been hanging out outside a lot – having pretend picnics on the lawn, complete with friends and mini tea sets, digging in the sandpit, swinging, bouncing on the trampoline, sliding down the little plastic slide. This evening Felix climbed up the slide, grabbed hold of the dangling branches of the tree, and swung down onto the ground. Practicing paragliding, he said.

4/52

sleddingsledding2

Not the best quality images, but evidence that I dragged them outside this afternoon to muck around in the remaining snow… We had a week and a half hovering around -15 and it was too cold to be outside much but ah so beautiful. The whole world was frosted white and the sky was clear most days apart from little gauzy wisps of cloud, varying shades of pink and gold and pearly blue. Now the world is grey and soggy. But we had a nice weekend all the same.

I think my snowman building skills need work though. In the photo below Felix is about to start wailing because Antonia is tipping the snowman’s head off – which he had planned to do!

snowman2

And my dear, dear, puffball Antonia is about the sweetest thing in the world right now.

inside

 

November garden (45/52)

45.52.felix 45.52.antonia

Michael is away again this weekend. We went into town yesterday and had some friends over for dinner in the evening. Today the sun was shining but Felix didn’t feel like going anywhere. It was actually really nice not to hop in the car all day. We played lego, changed all the bed sheets, did a craft kit while Antonia had her nap, went outside for a bit in the afternoon, and baked scones at Felix’s insistence after our scrambled eggs for dinner. Work is getting really busy at the moment, and I’ve noticed a certain end of semester fatigue setting in, but after this weekend I feel ready to power through the final through weeks to exams.

Yesterday, Felix mopped the floor for me. The mop was *cough* quite a novelty. Today Antonia let me brush her teeth without screaming the house down. This was quite a novelty, too. I sang a teeth brushing song instead. At the end, I said ‘well done Antonia, high five!’, hoping to distract her from her tiny bit of protest at the end. She beamed, took the tooth brush out of my hand, and gave me a high five. I’ve never done this before – they must do it at barnehage. Felix hopped out of his bath without complaining and they spent the next five minutes high-fiving each other and giggling their heads off, before Antonia insisted on handing out the baby pine cones that Felix and I had collected. It totally made up for Felix’s mini tantrum earlier when he decided that he did want to go out after all once it was too late.

Love. Love. Love.

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

45.52.antonia2

pine2

pine3 pine

Spring

spring2

It feels a little cheeky, having entirely skipped the winter, but I am marvelling at spring all the same. The bulbs in the park in town are piercing through the earth, nothing can stop them.

spring

The buds of baby pine cones on our tree are barely visible, but they are there.

picnic2

Felix picked handfuls of the old pinecones yesterday as we picnicked in the garden.

picnic5

It was the first time we’ve got out there this year. Antonia slept.

picnic6

Whitby came to join the party.

picnic4

Felix was so pleased when Antonia woke up again, wearing his old red coat. I thought of all our other springs in this place. Baby Felix peering up at blossoms. Toddler Felix helping build the sandbox. Or playing with the pinecones. Three year old Felix cycling round the deck, thinking about the baby inside me, telling me he missed me before he was born. And now there is another spring, a new one, and I am glad.

picnic3

Jungle Boy

Saturday-17Michael took these gorgeous photos one weekend while Mum worked in the garden. Felix had helped her for a while, and then discovered this broom handle and the need to tear around the lawn with it, racing and whooping. A Felix at three and a half is a lovely thing, if challenging at times. He is reflective and feels things very deeply, and never forgets anything. He knows how to make magic with language.

Saturday-12He likes the baby. He likes to bounce. He likes ‘sweet stuff’. (As I do. We are working on it.) He loves to cook. I had to rush out of the kitchen to settle Antonia back to sleep the other day, and when I returned he’d located his (not so sharp) knife and chopped up a carrot. He likes you to play with him.

Saturday-26He likes building things – a couple of days before Mum left he built the most amazing extenstive airport out of duplo blocks, spread over two duplo plates, complete with a control tower and a luggage belt. He loves the craft cupboard I put together in the summer before Antonia arrived. He’s an ace negotiator. The afternoon Mum left, I was madly tidying whilst Antonia slept. Felix looked at me. ‘How many things,’ he said, ‘how many things do I need to put away before I can paint?’ ‘Ummmm’ I said. But he continued to tidy up all his toys so thoroughly that I couldn’t refuse him, and he spent the next hour very carefuly covering sheets of paper in one colour each. Later, he tried to build a huge duplo bridge and it kept falling down. ‘It’s a bit unpleasant building this bridge’, he said.

Saturday-24Sometimes he whines and wails, and these are our least favourite times. Other times he can have a thoughtful conversation with you about nearly anything. He rarely stops asking questions.

Saturday-15He gives us so many hugs and kisses. He doesn’t love his ‘bear’ as much any more – he still likes him, but doesn’t notice if he’s not in his bed. He has a lot of other ‘friends’ to cuddle, and his beloved ‘echidna pillow’. Only two months ago he was asking us why grown-ups don’t have bears, and assuring us that he would still have his bear when he was a grown-up.

Saturday-14He is beginning to play more with his friends – he’s just at the cusp of a new stage. He comes home from barnehage now and tells us about a ‘shop’ he runs in the playground, where his friends come and buy toys from him. Recently we went to playground with his best friend and his mother, and it was not his day and everything went wrong and they just argued and fought and couldn’t agree who’s turn it was to drive the boat. But there were some funny moments. ‘Come up here on the deck,’ I said to Felix, ‘we need to be on the look-out for animals!’ ‘I see some fish!’ He said. ‘What kind of fish?’ ‘Blue fish!’ ‘I see some yellow fish!’ said his friend. ‘Nooooooo’, screamed Felix, ‘there are no yellow fish, they are blue fish!’

Saturday-19To us, all these things seem utterly remarkable. He knows about kings and queens and death now.

Saturday-20Sometimes his face looks suddenly older to me, and other times he’s still my baby. He is a tiny baby, he assures me.

Saturday-27

Six weeks with my Mum

Fabian-5

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.

Fabian-6

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.

Fabian-4

Before I was Felix I missed you

This evening I sat outside with Felix for half an hour before bedtime. I sat on the steps and knitted a baby blanket. He sped around riding his tricycle on the deck. It was pretty cold – I had to swap to my winter coat, but it was nowhere near dark. Michael had taken him outside to drive the remote control car, and then Felix asked for his bike, and we swapped. Felix is pretty good at pedalling now – he’s been practicing in the barnehage. He’s very proud of himself. He would ride up to me, stop, then say ‘goodbye Mummy, see you later!’ and do another round. It was one of those perfect moments – the grey-gold light between the still bare trees and the houses and the green green lawns, the tiny beginnings of new leaves on the hedges, the first rows of the baby blanket under my fingers, and Felix coasting around and around, chatting as he passed. And he said: ‘Mummy, before I was Felix I missed you soooooo many time’.

And it seemed as if time was centred in this moment, everything before and after pointed to now.

We have been talking a fair bit lately about where people come from, and about things that happened before Felix was born (he always says, but where was I?). He says, ‘When I was a baby…’ And he says, ‘When you were a baby…’ He says, ‘Who’s tummy was Daddy inside?’ He says, ‘how do you make a Felix?’ (Ask your father.) Once in the car he said: ‘When you were a little guy… Are you going to be little again?’ ‘No, I’ll never be little again.’ ‘But I want you to be small like me!’ ‘But I can’t be small because then I couldn’t look after you.’ ‘I want you to look after me.’

When we first started talking about the baby, he said, ‘There’s a baby in your tummy? And it’s not me?’ And later, we were walking by a busy road, and I said ‘be careful Felix and listen to Mummy otherwise a car might crash into you and there won’t be any more Felix.’ ‘Yes there will,’ he said, ‘in your tummy.’

He talks about the baby nearly every day. Last night we all sat on the sofa. He pointed at my leg. ‘One,’ he said. Then at Michael’s leg – ‘two.’ Then at himself – ‘three’, and then at my belly – ‘four’.

Truly his curiosity has been one of the nicest things about this pregnancy so far. It is a pregnancy I have longed for for more than two years, since Felix was a baby himself. I was not sure it would happen again, and I feel so utterly lucky. It is strange to think that the probability is very high now indeed that I will have a baby at the end of this. Things will change. And I am trying, in these last three months in which there are only three of us, to soak my little boy in, to listen to him, to be present for him.

As he rode around he talked to himself and to me. ‘The baby doesn’t like to sykler?’ he said. ‘No, it’s not so safe. But I’ll ride again later when the baby has come out.’ ‘When the baby’s bigger…’ He rode some more. ‘Do more stitches!’ He demanded, when I paused to look up over the trees. (A welcome change from his customary demands that I stop.) ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he said. ‘And Daddy. And the baby.’ And then he told me he missed me before he was born.

A long weekend

We’re at the tail-end of a beautiful long weekend. Today the week-long heat-wave has slowly evaporated, but we certainly made the most of it, and spent plenty of time eating, playing and bathing outside with some excellent friends.

It was so lovely to have some time off with not only good weather, but a Felix healthy enough to enjoy it properly. Here he is galloping around the trampoline.

 
Today we bought a new oven. I am in love. Excuse me while I wax lyrical. We needed a new one because our old one was too small for our kitchen – both too narrow for the spot and too low for the bench. The new one fits perfectly and has induction hot-plates which are an utter revelation to me. So much better than our old ordinary electric ones – my heavy frying pan heated up in an instant, rather than ten minutes, and I managed to saute the mushrooms perfectly without burning the garlic. Not to mention the fact that food doesn’t fall down the side of the oven any more and the handles of the saucepans don’t bump into the bench-top.

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a novel-reading binge. If I open my novel the minute Felix falls asleep, I can recreate the illusion of being able to lose myself in a book for hours and hours. It’s been quite nice. I read the last two books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy. It had taken me about six months to get into The Girl Who Played with Fire, as the first sixty pages or so annoyed me no end. But once I got past them I actually got hooked and enjoyed them immensely. The story and the characters are larger than life but in the end I found them very likable.

From there I jumped headlong into We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver…

But now this blog post has to stop because my early morning is catching up with me and I need to go to bed. I’ll tell you what I thought about it later.

Photos I didn’t take

You know when you have a big rambly lawn, you think how nice it will be to lie on the lawn and watch your toddler potter around it happily, but then he never feels like it and is unaccountably grumpy for two evenings in a row despite the amazing weather… And then all of a sudden you are out in the sandbox together just before bath-time, and you’ve had a great day despite how clingy he was in the morning and despite the fact that most things you offer him to eat result in outraged tears. And when you’ve made him enough ducks from the little sand-mould, he crawls out of the sandbox and chases the cat all the way to the plum trees. And you lie down next to him and he heaps grass-blades into your hands and places them on the cat’s back. All the dandelions are lit up by the warm slanting sun and you when you put one behind your ear he wants to wear one too, then he tries to give it to the cat. You don’t race inside to find the camera because it is perfect, perfect, you could not ask for anything more.