Summer days

It’s our last couple of days in Adelaide before we fly home to the cold again. Christmas was magical. The first couple of weeks here were a bit of a slog as I was on my own this year with the kids, my parents were working and we were battling jetlag, coughs, and then a fever for Antonia. But since Christmas it has been lovely – my parents have been on holidays and I’m in the swing of it now! The past week Felix has been having swimming lessons everyday as part of the vacswim programme. We’ve been going to a really sweet little outdoor pool. It’s so relaxing to have a splash then hang out on the grass eating paddle pops. Felix has learnt a lot and can now navigate deep water by himself (only just, but he is so confident and determined!). Antonia has watched the level one courses with fascination, and practises blowing bubbles and kicking her legs.

It’s been crazy hot the past couple of days but it’s toned down to pleasant today. Yesterday evening we spent half an hour (or more) pumping up a new paddling pool shaped like a shark. We had to use a bike pump and it took forever but the kids (especially Felix) insisted on helping and the process of putting it together was almost as engaging as the finished product.

Mum and Dad have taken the kids grocery shopping and I’m suppose to be doing the final edits to an article but gosh it is hard to concentrate on that right now. I will get it done somehow, it’s very close. We’re planning on going to Glenelg later, so Felix can have another go on these monstrous blow up waterslides, and Antonia can have a play in the playground.

We’ve caught up with friends, hung out with family, picked cherries, gone to the museum, the beach, the pool. I’m bracing myself for the transition back home – the cold, the jetlag, needing to leave the kids at barnehage (normally they don’t mind, but Antonia has made it very clear she prefers the current lifestyle), work, having to cook dinner… Best not to think about it too much.

We spent the morning on the deck today, puddling about on the swings, and pumping air into the paddling pool. Felix found a stretchy strap that had fallen off Mum’s bathers and announced he would use it to make a sling shot. After the early efforts were unsuccessful Dad cut him out a wooden one with holes, and Mum threaded the elastic through. He shot frozen peas and apricot stones off the deck. The peas didn’t work so well but Antonia ate up the ones he didn’t need.

Antonia wants to be a dinosaur. After some quiet reflection in the car the other day, she announced wistfully: ‘I don’t even talk like a dinosaur.’ I told her she could practice.

 

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Felix: a moment of calm between jumping, balancing, climbing, splashing.

Antonia: on the go as ever!

The sun has not stopped shining for the past two weeks and it has been so lovely. Every evening we’ve been out in the garden, capering about on the trampoline and rolling around in the baby tent (the little ones, at any rate). Today was my parents’ last day before they fly back to Australia, so we had a picnic in the sunshine and then they put up some blinds for me in my bedroom – a job that’s been waiting around for months. Yesterday Dad put up a gate at the bottom of our stairs which means Antonia now has freedom to crawl around the hallway and play with our shoes. Mum was with us all of last week while Dad visited some of his old haunts in Lancashire. It was so excellent to have her around – she picked up the kids from barnehage, giving Antonia half days which I’m sure were much appreciated, cooked, and sorted stuff out for us, like our sandpit and the cupboard under the stairs. It’s very sad to say goodbye but I feel so lucky to have them and to see so much of them. We’re already planning to visit in December, so it’s not goodbye for long.

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

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Had the most gorgeous day in Fredrikstad with Mum and the kids last Sunday. We stopped at some bronze-age stone circles on the way – we’d driven past the sign so many times it was great to finally have a look. Both kids decided stones are for climbing. Felix discovered some blueberries in the forest. Then we drove on to the old town of Fredrikstad and after lunch and a play at the playground and feeding the goats (Antonia wanted so badly to jump over the fence to give them a kiss) we ended up at the bottom of a grassy slope. We all practiced rolling down – first Felix, then Mum, then me, and then, of course, Antonia – she refused to be left out! We only let her roll down the lowest bit but she was game. I’d forgotten how giddy it makes you feel. And we just lay on the grass and the sun shone and shone and Felix rolled and Antonia picked bits of grass and chewed on them and it was about as perfect as an afternoon can get.

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Antonia: a girl after my own heart. She loves to climb up onto Felix’s little chair, select a book, then sit down and ‘read’.

Felix: Mum snapped this photo of him sailing his sea plane on our recent holiday on the Swedish coast.

It has been so lovely having my parents around. We stayed down on the Swedish coast for a few nights – a gorgeous place of rocky outcrops and boat-filled harbours. It was a perfect summer holiday. The weather has not been brilliant this summer, so I felt spoilt with two days of sunshine by the sea – playing in the garden behind the B&B, clambering on the rocks at the beach, eating ice cream, cake, fish and pizza at the wharf, mini golf, bouncy castles, and a beautiful watercolour museum.

In one week I go back to work and Antonia starts barnehage. Can you believe it? My parents are off on a trip through Europe for ten days, coming back for the weekend of Antonia’s birthday. So I have some time now to focus on the transition. There are a few things left to sort out – making sure Antonia has all the gear she needs – rain clothes, shoes (she’s never worn shoes!), lunch box, rain boots etc. Not to mention locating all of Felix’s stuff too. I am excited and a little apprehensive, and I hope my dear sweet cuddly Antonia will be ok. I have been mentally preparing for this moment all year, and it is so close now that there is no time for hesitation – merely a few deep breaths before we all plunge in.

But here are some more glimpses of our trip.

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Grandparent love

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We’ve been staying in a holiday apartment in Kassel, but spending a couple of hours every day with Michael’s folks. They’ve loved having us around for so long. We took these pictures in a restaurant known as the Waffle Queen, which serves the most remarkable array of waffles. They took me here the first spring I was in Kassel, ten years ago. Michael says he doesn’t remember it, but I have been itching to get back every trip since. I had a lebkuchen (christmas gingerbread) waffle with chocolate icecream and sour cherries. It did not disappoint.

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Happy birthday Mum

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This week I bought myself some baggy terracotta coloured pants, and wearing them I feel a little as though I am channeling my Mum, as she was about 30 years ago, when she was young(er), when she had small children. I’m sure she had pants a bit like them. She’s told me many times that the happiest years of her life were those when her children were little. I don’t feel she’s dismissing other times in her life when she says this, but little children are so grounding, you need to be so present with them, it is special. And uncomplicated in a way, although certainly challenging.

Mum always says she loved being 30; she felt when she turned 30 she had it all sorted out. Of course, she adds, shortly after that it all came crumbling down. But I admire the way she sorts it out after all, again and again. (Mostly by realising it doesn’t need to be all sorted out, I think, but loving and trusting and being present anyway.)

Anyway, I was walking into town the other day, feeling a bit like my Mum and trying to remember what she was like when she was my age, and younger than my age – she was only 25 when I was born, but I was 35 when Antonia was born. I remember her wearing autumnal colours and knitting herself a jumper with llamas on it, and talking to me from the kitchen as I drew at the table. And she would buy huge blocks of real clay for us to make things with. And all the time she was piecing together the beginnings of a new career, having decided not to go back to teaching history in high schools.

She will still do anything in the world for me, without it seeming an imposition. She’s happy to mend my clothes, listen without judgement, come for late night walks with me, chat on skype whenever the fancy takes me, play endlessly with Felix, change Antonia’s diapers, travel across the world to be with me when my babies are born. All this and work full time and be similarly grounding and reflective for our whole extended family, the children and young adults she counsels, the psychologists and social workers she manages and mentors, and pretty much anyone else who needs her. Even Antonia adores her, beaming already as soon as I turn on skype.

Her best friend, her sister, her parents and my dad are all having (or have had) dinner with her, so my birthday wish for Mum is a walk in the sun, nowhere special to be, no problems to solve for anyone, a moment to breathe, like the one I had on Wednesday, walking into town in the shiny spring sunshine, daydreaming in my terracotta pants.

Sending you so much love from all of us – we can’t wait to see you in July. xxx

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More love in the park

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I just love this photo Michael snapped of the three of us. Felix is showing me a triangular stone. We went back there today and he found a stone shaped like the tail of a plane. He insisted I actually look at it instead of just saying ‘hmmmm, that’s great’, and it really was!

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We are in Germany at the moment and Oma and Opa have been soaking in their grandchildren.

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

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

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

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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.

Five months

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Darling Antonia is five months old. She’s just started saying dadadada and bla bla bla. She likes to squeak loudly and blows a very earnest raspberry. Sometimes she sounds like a pterodactyl or a creaky door. Sometimes it sounds just like she’s saying ‘hello’.

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She can sit by herself for brief moments and can manage a high chair, though she wasn’t sure about the swing. She has curls. More every day.

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We haven’t properly started solids yet but I guess it won’t be long – she is so curious when we eat – she reaches out and opens and closes her mouth like a fish. Yesterday evening when we were eating dinner she wouldn’t settle until I gave her a slab of mango to smear around her high chair tray, though I think she likes the peach she tasted a couple of days ago better.

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She’s getting much more discerning about who holds her, preferring people she knows. Mum, Dad, Michael, Grandma, Granddad, Felix and I get the best smiles. She never tires of Felix’s antics. The funniest thing she has ever seen in her life is Felix’s Dusty aeroplane flying and crashing into the bed, making a crunching sound. They cackled for a good half an hour.

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She knows her own name, and Felix’s, and mine. She still doesn’t like sleeping in the evening but will happily sleep in in the morning, which we are making the most of, given Felix’s newfound ability to entertain himself when he wakes up. She still opens her mouth wide and lunges at us to give us slobby kisses. Or try to eat us. Or something. And we love her so.

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Grandma and Granddad’s house

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

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How many babies have been cuddled on this lawn?

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How many barefoot races?

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How many children have helped with Christmas baking?

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Just now

The days have been sifting past so fast. In only two weeks we leave for Australia. A week and a half ago my brother and his girlfriend came to visit for the weekend and it was lovely but I didn’t get a single photo. (I took one of Jon, Antonia and I on the last day but didn’t realise there was no memory card in the camera.) Then last weekend we flew to Berlin. Michael’s Mum came up to spend a couple of days with us and meet Antonia. We didn’t venture far from the grungy paradise of Prenzlaueberg – groovy cafes, delicious cakes and imaginative playgrounds populated by quirkily dressed youngsters, half of whom seemed to be called Felix. It was so lovely seeing Monica meet Antonia. She kept saying what a peaceful, happy child she is, and it is true. It nearly broke my heart when she cried saying goodbye, and Antonia kept shooting her gentle, knowing, pleased little smiles back at her.

Felix had a ball as well. ‘Why is it dark?’ he said one evening. ‘Well,’ I said, quoting The Tiger Who Came to Tea, ‘We’re going to go out in the dark, and all the streetlights will be lit, and all the cars will have their lights on, and we’ll go down the road to a cafe.’ He was quite delighted with this state of affairs, especially as it involved pizza with ham. The restaurant didn’t serve ice cream (essential after pizza for a Felix) so we picked one up from a supermarket on the way back and ate it as we strolled the streets.

Felix was most taken with a bicycle riding past with blinking lights. He discussed it for a long time with Michael, so on the way home Michael bought him two bike lights. When we got back to Norway he played with them patiently all afternoon as he waited for it to get dark, before insisting that Michael retrieve his bike from the basement and get it ready. After dinner I went out with him in the freezing night, Antonia bundled up in her pram, Felix most insistent on acting out his dream of riding his bike in the dark. When we made it to the footpath on the main road he declared, ‘lets go to a cafe!’ ‘We can’t’, I said, ‘there are no cafe’s up here, it’s too far.’ ‘I can cycle long’, he said. We rode back home and made chocolate pudding instead.

To be completely honest the little guy has been a bit of a challenge lately, rather too quick to demand, and screech, and ignore. Some of our attempts for force compliance have failed miserably. My old trick of counting to five, giving him a chance to avoid some threat, has all but stopped working. He was home with us today though and it went a bit better – I tried harder to emphasise the positives, and say ‘of course you’re going to get out of the car now cos I can’t wait to tell Father Christmas how well you’ve listened to me today’. And I even managed to intervene a little in his terrible tendency to whine and to ask the same question over and over again, loudly…

Antonia is a dear little thing and is currently suffering her worst ever cold. This morning she caught Michael’s eye and told him very seriously all about it, before smiling cheerfuly and drifting off to sleep.

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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The Easter Train

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Last year we went down to watch the steam train leave; this year we were lucky enough to hop aboard. And it was much nicer weather. The train meanders for about an hour and a half before stopping in a village for a few hours – time for an Easter egg hunt, relaxing in the gardens, a train museum and an ice cream. When I asked Felix what the best thing about Germany was, he replied without hesitation: the engine.

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He was, however, not too pleased about having his photo taken, which is why he looks pensive in these shots.

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We also went back to the animal park. Felix adored the waffles and the penguins: ‘he’s swimming all by himself!’

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But the biggest hit was undoubtably the digger. It was very hard to leave.

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Family in Halden

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I’ve decided I have to retrospectively put a few of these photos in – otherwise it looks like the past few months never happened, or were merely a blur of lecture preparation, which isn’t quite true…  These photos are from the week after we returned from Austria with my parents and grandparents.

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An impromptu trip to the lake. Not a problem for Felix who told us to ‘take off all your clothes and come in the water!’

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Good Friday

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German Easter decorations are out in force!

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Our favourite ice cream cafe

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Also, snow.

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Sigh. We are so ready for spring.

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Felix never wants to take off his pyjamas in the morning and for once we indulged him.

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It has been a little stressful as Felix appears to be allergic to something in this house, but his ventolin puffer is keeping it under control. He just loves his Oma and Opa and has been practicing counting to ten in German.

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Painting with Poppa

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

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

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Grandparents

Sorry for the blog silence. We’ve been busy having a wonderful time with my parents, who are visiting. They’ve headed off to north norway for the weekend, but we have some old Australian friends arriving tomorrow, so it’s still all go around here. Felix loves having his grandparents around, and today has been asking for ‘dama’ and ‘poppa’. So it’s a good thing they’ll be back in a couple of days. (This last photo is blurry but oh so sweet.)

18 months

Today, my darling, you are 18 months old, which is a pretty adorable age, and you are a pretty adorable boy. (These photos are from a trip to the park with Michael and your Opa during our recent trip to Germany.) You’re sleeping very well now, but more often than not you end up in our bed at some point over night, which means we wake around 6 with a little monkey bouncing up and down between us, saying ‘ogur?’ (yoghurt), ‘bow?’ (bowl). Luckily you’re content to bounce around a little while before we acquiesce and take you downstairs. The other day you were so excited on the way down the stairs that you said ‘ogur?’ ‘bow?’ ‘chair?’ ‘moo?’ (spoon). It’s very funny getting these insights into what’s going on in your head.

You’re really into sitting on things at the moment (unfortunately, including the cat) and have worked out how to climb up onto your little plastic deck chair. You come out with new words all the time. Recent acquisitions include scissors, shampoo, floor, food, knee, shop, walk, poopoo, away. You can say blue and yellow and green and you love it when I talk about the colours but I don’t think you can distinguish them yet. When we ask you ‘how many’ you try to count things. (You say two and four but not one.) It’s very cute when a bee or a fly flies close to you, and you say ‘bee! away!’, while waving your arms around enthusiastically. You are quite good at little two word phrases now, like ‘more nana’ and ‘dadda shoes’. When we were driving up the hill to the barnehage this morning (which is the same road we take to the swedish shopping centre, you said imploringly: ‘shop! more shop!’ You were very disappointed when I didn’t change our plans to suit you. I wish I could have.

Your favourite activity is to sit in the driver’s seat of the car with the car keys, playing with the steering wheel and all the buttons. Pretty much every time you see the car you want to do this. You also love busses, and point them out whenever you see one, saying ‘busss!’ Sometimes you say it when there isn’t a bus. ‘Can you see a bus, Felix’, I ask. ‘No!’ you shake your head and grin at me.

You are a sweet and cuddly little thing and love reading books with me. You are happiest when both Michael and I are around. Ah… It’s so hard to capture exactly what you’re like right now. I love when you smile and nod and meet our eyes, and when you trot around naked in our lounge room after your bath.

Seventeen months

We are in Austria right now with your Oma and Opa. When we arrived, on a rainy afternoon, we went straight to the supermarket for supplies. While Michael was putting our shopping bags into the car, I noticed some horses walking through a nearby playground, and I showed them to you. ‘Neigh neigh!’ you said. Up till now you’d only ever seen them in books and in the ‘Old Macdonald had a Farm’ song on youtube. When you woke up the next morning, before we even got you out of your crib, the very first thing you said was ‘neigh neigh!’, and pointed desperately at the window. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘there are some horses around, we’ll visit them later’. Requests to visit the ‘neigh neighs’ haven’t let up yet. Every time we take you to see them you want to see them again immediately.

Your favourite word right now is ‘more’. You want more yoghurt, more songs, more peas, more spins in the air, more horses, more cows, more tunnels, more raspberries in your bath water, more tickles, more little trecks around whatever strange thing has caught your interest. It’s not always a request, sometimes it’s just a statement that you’re going to do something again, or even checking with us if you should do something again. When we were stuck in traffic on the way down here, you were trying on my sunglasses, peeping out of them, saying ‘daaaa!’, and then, when we laughed at you, ‘more?’ And you would do it again.

It’s very cute to hear you say ‘peas!’ The word always seems to be exclaimed. Some of your new words, apart from ‘more’, are ‘bubble’, ‘turtle’, ‘key’, ‘moon’, ‘star’, and ‘yoghurt’. You’re favourite song right now is ‘Tiny Tim’ (a song about turtles and bubbles), and you are getting very good at the actions.

You’ve got very good at bossing us around. You like to sit on a step, and point to the spot next to you to indicate that I should sit down too. Or you stand up, point at the floor until I stand up too, take my hand and lead me to where you want to go.

You had your last breastfeed the day before you turned 17 months. It was more my idea than yours, I’m afraid, but you took it in your stride, which I’m pretty sure you would not have done a month earlier. I miss it a little but you are sleeping so much better now, and we still have lots and lots of snuggles.

When we were staying in the B&B in Denmark we had to wait until 7.30 for breakfast. Given that you woke up at 4.30, you were none too impressed with this. For the last ten minutes before we went in, you clutched your bib and your spoon, saying ‘yoghurt? Mama? Yoghurt?’ Again and again and again. And when we finally got in there and poured you a bowl of yoghurt, you burst into inconsolable tears, because it wasn’t in a little pot like you were used to. I had to take you outside and calm you down, and stop talking about yoghurt and offer you some cheese, before you were happy to sit in your chair again, at which point you contentedly put away about three bowls worth of yoghurt, after all.

Apart from the horses, your favourite thing about Austria were all the cable cars. The first time we took you on one you were amazed every time a carriage went past in the other direction. ‘More?’ You would ask. And sure enough, another one would show up. After that, if we were walking or driving anywhere, as soon as you spotted a cable car you would point and complain urgently, letting us know that you wanted to get on it immediately. As long as you had a banana or a piece of apple strudel to munch on on the way back down, you were pretty much in heaven.

This month has been all about connections, between things, pictures, words and people. It has been such a delight to see you form such a strong bond with your German grandparents, and you’ve also had a wonderful time lately playing with our neighbour’s daughters and some of our friends’ children. When we read your books at bedtime, one of them has a picture of a sippy cup, and you always excitedly point at the picture of the cup and then at your own cup, and at the picture of the bed and at your own bed. When we were out for dinner this evening, you were fingering the buttons on my shirt. ‘Buttons’, I said, at which point you hastily pulled up your top and pointed at your belly button. When Michael returned from America with a t-shirt for you with a picture of a tyrannosaurus on it, the first thing you did was rush to your bookshelf and pull out the book about the Gruffalo, and say ‘argh!’ They did look quite alike. Then you dug around in your duplo box until you found your duplo dinosaur. You are so much fun to be around right now.

How to have a perfect day

We’ve just returned from such a lovely week in Austria. (See here for one of my most popular posts of all time, in which I extol the virtues of an Austrian holiday.) A couple of days ago, we all had pretty much the perfect day.

Morning: adventure playground with Oma and Opa (Felix would have happily stayed on the swing for hours), then up the cable car to the paraglider launch. Felix spotted plenty of cows, buses and tunnels.

Michael was flying all morning, but Moni and Herbert and I played with Felix in the sandpit, the trampoline and the little house outside the mountain café.

Back to base for lunch. During Felix’s nap, Herbert, Michael and I ducked out to ride the toboggan down the mountain.

Back to base to pick up Moni and Felix, and then off to another cable car and up up up. Moni stopped at the middle station for a coffee and strudel, but the rest of us went right to the top. Felix clambered around on the bouncy castle, and then I carried him in the ergo up a little track to a most incredible viewing platform, where I caught up with Michael and Herbi.

Back down again, picking up Moni on the way, and straight to a restaurant around the corner from our apartment, with views over the meadows towards the mountains.

We ate Austrian specialties for dinner and sat outside for hours while Felix pottered around the awesome play area underneath the apple trees. And what this list can’t really describe is just how happy we all were together today. We’re all exhausted now but in the best possible way.

Hann. Münden

Hann. Münden is a town with a medieval centre, not far from Michael’s hometown of Kassel. Once Kassel itself had a centre like this, but now, since the war, it looks more like this. We had a lovely, if chilly, afternoon in Hann. Münden on Easter Friday, stopping for coffee and waffles to warm us up. Moni was born here. I love this photo of her so so much.

Happy birthday, Nanna!

This weekend my wonderful and very clever Nanna turns 89. We’ll be on the road back to Norway, so I wanted to wish her a very happy birthday now. We had such a nice time visiting her while we were in Australia, and going shopping with her, and going out for breakfast at the French Cafe, and out for lunch with Dad at the Belair Hotel. We crashed Dad’s and Nanna’s regular Thursday lunchtime date twice, and they got us to take a picture of them at their regular table. I love you so much, Nanna, and wish I could go out with you every week. xxx

Easter in Kassel

An abundance of chocolate aside, it’s all about the decorations.

This display was in one of the shopping centres. Felix enjoyed walking along holding on to the little fence, swiping other small children out of the way.

He liked the purple cows.

Michael liked the watch-makers.

I liked the fuzzy goats.

Moni has been looking forward to showing Felix the rabbits for weeks, but I think she liked his snuggles best of all.

A little birthday party

Today some close friends came over and we had a little birthday party for Felix. Good friends are so precious. In this photo you can also see: Felix’s lion, which was a hand-me-down from a very lovely lady in Idaho Falls, who has a son a couple of years older than Felix (Felix adores this lion, so my cake was an attempt to approximate it); the curtains my Grandma gave us; the coffee cups and milk jug my Nanna gave us for our wedding; tulips which reminded me of the ones you can see here; a vase which was a birthday present from the barnehage; a delicious cheesecake made by my lovely Norwegian friend; a colourful bowl that my parents gave me when I moved to York; a candle holder that Michael acquired many many years ago, long before I met him; and the gorgeous cardigan that my Mum knitted for me while we were in Australia, shortly after these photos were taken. So although we are a long way away from our families, we were pretty much surrounded by love. And Felix seemed to like the cake.

The little guy had a good time playing with his birthday presents and his new friend Pearce.

In the background in this one you can see the walker that we spied in a shop in Adelaide, but Michael’s parents bought for Felix in Germany. It was a happy day. Surrounded by love, indeed.

The week you turned one

You fed yourself porridge, spoonful by heaped spoonful.

The sun shone on our little house and we were happy inside it.

The tracks I made pulling you on a little sled around the tree stayed there all week.

You watched schnappi with your father.

You patted the cat, and chased him around the house, and squealed with glee every time you saw him. (Sorry that Mermos just looks like a black blob – it’s really hard to get a picture of him. It’s even harder to get a picture of Felix and Whitby together because every time Whitby hears Felix make a sound, he’s out of there.)

You slept in your pram.

You walked up and down our living room, clutching your new walker. You stood by yourself with your hands in the air and a grin on your face. You had your first full days in barnehage, which just about broke my heart. You really liked it until you were smitten with a nasty cold. You held up your lion blanky and whispered ‘raaa!’ You pointed to the sheep in you books and said ‘baa!’ You pointed out the doors, and exclaiming ‘door!’ everywhere you went. The image of you crawling up to a new doorway and peering around the corner is one I never want to forget. You looked very sweet in your new winter wardrobe. (And yes, that’s the green jumper I knitted. I am so pleased with it.) You woke me up many times, every night. But I adore you.

More photos from Australia Day

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

I made some bug-cakes

Mala tried to steal Grandma’s lunch

Felix practiced his standing

and learnt how to wash the dishes.

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

A wedding in a garden, II

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

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

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

but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

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

But the skies cleared and all was well.

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

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

(and lions, I told her)

and in the sparkling evening light,

that was entirely plausible.

Christmas take two

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

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

Everyone was happy to have another generation around.

The desserts were pretty good too.

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

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

but it was a wonderful, wonderful day.

Ten months

At ten months, Felix, you are a pretty awesome little chap. You seem to have learnt about a hundred things since arriving in Australia two weeks ago (in addition to growing four new teeth, bringing your total to six!). After understandably bursting into tears upon meeting my family in the airport, you’ve grown quite fond of them. You are very happy to hang out with your grandparents, and you save some very sweet smiles for your great-grandparents.

Towers of blocks appear to offend you and must be destroyed and scattered instantly. You spend a lot of time putting things into other things. You’ve started throwing your blocks around with gusto.You adore your mega-blocks truck. You play with it for hours every day, spinning the wheels, and opening and closing the lid and putting the blocks and the little man in and out of it.

You chatter just about all the time. Your favourite sound is now ‘dawdle awdle’, but you also experiment with many others – you can quack like a duck and cough like your granddad, and you love to imitate whatever sounds we make.

You have very clear ideas about the way you want things done, and you let us know immediately if we get it wrong. You love strawberries. You reach your arms out to people you want to go to. The swing on your grandparents’ deck is a big hit.

You had a few (more than usual) wakeful nights while you were pushing out those four teeth. After about an hour of wakefulness early one morning, Michael was singing lullabies to you and we thought you were about to drift off, when we suddenly heard a sweet, cheeky, high-pitched ‘dawdle awdle!’ Any other time of the day it would have been cute.

You are impressed with my new ergo sling (thanks Mum!) and the stroller is becoming less and less popular as a result. You are not crawling yet but you are becoming increasingly mobile – rolling around your crib and pulling yourself up onto your knees. It’s getting tough to strap you into your car seat as you can just about wriggle out of it. All in all you are relishing all the attention and the new sights and sounds, though your favourite spot to view the world is from my arms.

We’ve taken you to the beach a few times now and you love it. Yesterday we sat you in the water and you thought that was pretty fabulous. The first time we put you down on the sand you were amazed. After several minutes of silence and intense concentration as you dug and scattered and curled your fingers around the stuff, you delivered your verdict: ‘heh!’

Craft morning

I took Felix to my Nanna’s craft morning today.

He ate strawberries, we ate strawberries and cupcakes and pikelets with jam and cream.

There’s quite an amazing story about how my Nanna met these women in the first place, but I’ll have to tell you that another time when I’ve got the details straightened out.

We had such a nice time. The closest I got to doing any craft was showing them the pattern of a cardigan I’ve decided to knit once I find some yarn that will work. They were very encouraging, but I was blown away by the projects they were working on!

Felix enjoyed playing with one of Nanna’s golliwogs.

I’ve had to put my postcolonial qualms aside, for these are truly impressive creations.

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