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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Birthday 

My darling Felix turns six tomorrow. We had a party yesterday. He’d been dreaming of this dragon cake from the Women’s Weekly cookbook for nearly a year, and I’m so pleased we managed to pull it off. Michael took Antonia out swimming on Saturday morning and Felix stayed home to help me decorate the cakes and the house. ‘This is the first time we’ve decorated this house!’ he declared, solemnly, joyfully, as we sticky-taped his Jurassic World banners to the windows. Themed party decorations were also high on his wish-list, after he had wistfully observed them at his friends’ parties. It was so gratifying to be able to oblige.

I was a bit nervous about the party, as it was a lot of work to prepare, and he would have a mix of his old and new friends there, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. In the end it was fine. The parents of his new friends didn’t stay, so I didn’t need to worry about engaging with adults who weren’t comfortable speaking English (we lived in a bit of a bubble at the kids’ old kindergarten, which was bilingual). I did, however, have to communicate with a handful of 5-6 year olds in my creaky Norwegian, but I got by ok. The new friends monopolised Felix but the old friends played with each other, and there were no disasters apart from one kid tumbling down the stairs (oops) and another one getting nervous and hiding and not wanting to eat lunch. Felix beautifully calmed this one down, and enticed him to rejoin the celebrations – I was so proud of him.

Felix loved the party, and even relished the singing of Happy Birthday (in both Norwegian and English). When he was younger – maybe even last year, I’m not sure – we could never sing it to him, he was far too self-conscious. Today he’s been cheerfully putting together the lego sets his friends gave him. We went for a little walk in the afternoon to the frozen fjord. I have pictures – I’ll try to put them up tomorrow. But it was funny, Felix’s comment about decorating the house, because I have been musing a bit on the house over the past couple of days. How our lives and daily routines have changed, expanded, to fit this space. How our move here in May last year coincided with a big change for Felix in terms of what he wanted to play with – he’s hardly touched his trains since he’s been here, and they were such an obsession for years. There’s more to say about this, but it’s bedtime, and oh so nearly his birthday.

 

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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.

Where was I…

Sick, that’s right. A fever for sixteen days in a row. I recovered just in time for our week in Germany over Easter. Insert here a photo I wish I took: the car all packed, Felix and Antonia perched cheerfully in the front seats, looking for all the world like they were going to drive us to the ferry… A few days into our trip Felix came down with another nasty cold, resulting in very high fevers for a week and a half, and pretty much needing to sleep all the time. Antonia got it just in time for our return journey. She often vomits when she has a fever. Yep. Anyway… We were very relieved to arrive home on Easter Monday. We managed a few loads of washing, a lot of unpacking, and once the kids were asleep upstairs I collapsed on the sofa thinking – why do I feel so shivery… Cue another week of fever for me, with both kids also home sick. Yep. I’m finally feeling a little more human now and very much hoping that’s the end of fevers for a while. March was a write off.

Anyway, in the midst of all that, we BOUGHT A HOUSE! It’s beautiful. There’s lots of room for visitors, a lot of room for the kids to run outside, and it has a view of a fjord! We can’t quite believe it. We’ve been talking about looking for a bigger house for a while, but Michael kept saying we weren’t ready. A couple of weeks ago I started dragging the kids around to a few open inspections, just to get a feel for things. We’re not ready, said Michael. But then he looked on the website. What about this one, he said. It’s gorgeous, I said. We looked at it on the Friday before we left for Germany, and thought about it the entire time we were away. Our offer was accepted the day after we returned. I had to get my head around it a little because it’s a bit out of town (only a ten minute drive, but the house we’re in now is walking distance to town and to schools), and it will mean Felix will go to a different school to the one he would have started at if we’d stayed here. But in the end I thought why not. Let’s try it. So. There we are.

We take it over at the end of May. We’ve decided to change the kids to a different kindergarten, because their current one is out of town in the opposite direction to the house. This made me so sad. I feel awful about moving Felix away from his friends given that he only has one year left before school starts. But the new kindergarten is brand new and looks really nice, and he’ll get the chance to make new friends that he might be going to school with, so we think it will work out fine, and will simplify our lives considerably.

We’re excited. We went for a drive and an explore around our new neighbourhood today, and had a picnic by the fjord. We’re hoping that living out in the countryside will be the inspiration we need to start making more of all the fantastic hiking and exploring opportunities around here. It will be a busy couple of months as I have two conferences coming up in May and June, and Michael has a US trip at the end of April and a big conference for work the week after my conference in May, but we will make it. My Mum’s coming over in June and she won’t have to camp in the lounge room as we will have a whole spare room for her!

I haven’t been taking a lot of photos, but there are a couple lurking on the camera that I may find soon, but right now I just wanted to make sure I wrote something. I’ve missed you guys, all three of you. The kids have been adorable as always and I’ll try to write more about them soon. Felix has his first ever swimming lesson tomorrow evening, so we’ll see how that goes. But now, bedtime.

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Felix: his latest creation: squares inside cubes. These magnet shapes were his birthday present from my Grandma, and he has played with them so much.

Antonia: crawling at great speed across the hallway, curly as anything after her bath.

Today was Michael’s birthday and we invited some friends over and had a lovely but busy time eating marzipan cake and ANZAC biscuits. I’ve been finding it hard to keep up the photographs recently, so I snapped these just before bedtime this evening (a bit like last week). But I don’t mind the very ordinary moments they capture  – the kids’ scatty energy at 6.30pm, the open dishwasher, the hallway. We won’t always live here, I guess, and I do love this house – its squareness, its snugness, its windows. Antonia is so very pleased that she can open the door from the lounge to the hall herself, and crawl all the way across it and into the bathroom. And Felix, these days, is a non-stop creator – rockets and balls out of magnet shapes, drawings of trees and flags, geometric patterns with his little plastic beads.

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

And I couldn’t resist a couple of extra shots of the curls.

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A room of my own

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I braved a solo trip to IKEA last week, Antonia in tow, to buy a carpet and an armchair I’ve been coveting for two years. I wasn’t sure the chair would fit in the car, and it nearly didn’t. After fifteen minutes pushing and heaving and repositioning in the drizzling rain, Antonia perched obligingly on the front seat, I was just about to give up when I finally managed to shut the car boot. I raised my arms in triumph and a passing couple cheered. ‘Super mama!’ they said.

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I’m a bit in love with the chair and the rug, and am certain they will be conducive to writing and reading, once I work out what to do with the very lightly sleeping baby in the adjoining room…

The week before I took both kids and we got a bed for Felix.

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He’s very pleased with it, and pleased as well with the little mouse he talked me into buying for him, which has slept with him every night since. He named it Antonia Elinor Celeste.

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Spring

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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.

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

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

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

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Whitby came to join the party.

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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.

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Seven months

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Being seven months old with a big, adoring, bouncy brother is quite an experience. This evening Antonia laughed and laughed at Felix’s game of throwing a balloon to Michael and me, and then trying to catch it himself. This morning when she started complaining in her highchair while I was getting Felix’s lunchbox ready, Felix found a board book about a snowman and ‘read’ it to her to keep her happy.

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I’ve been enjoying kicking around the house with her once again. At seven months Antonia loves to chat, loves to smile at strangers, loves to wriggle around, give slobby kisses, snatch glasses, do downward dogs and get up on her hands and knees, but she still hasn’t figured out crawling forwards. In the car, she still sings herself to sleep. She’s been enjoying talking to my Mum on skype – now she starts smiling already the moment I log in.

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She is our cheeky gorgeous babe and we love her so.

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Back

I need to write some of this down before it fades. The flight back went very well, despite some anxiety about boarding passes in Kuala Lumpur airport. The kids slept well and played well and were generally agreeable, and did not get sick which was appreciated. I got some motion sickness tablets for Felix and who knows if he needs them or not but every other long haul flight over the past two years has ended in vomit, so I’ll definitely be packing them from now on. Felix was a little bored sitting around on the plane but he entertained himself admirably. I didn’t even have an ipad for him. He was absolutely gorgeous in the airports, insisting on walking himself and pulling his little suitcase, but quite happily going as fast as I asked him to in order to find our gate. In Doha airport by the time they announced boarding for families with small children and business class passengers, everyone else had already started queuing, so I decided to barge past them all. ‘Excuse me!’ I said. Felix piped up gleefully: ‘Coming through! We have a baby and a little guy, coming through!’

We were all so happy to see Michael again. We arrived at 7.30 in the morning and Felix did not stop talking all day, not even napping in the car on the way back to Halden, until he crashed into bed at 6pm. Antonia chuckled and wriggled whenever Michael looked at her, and when we went to our favourite cafe in the afternoon, was only interested in tasting Michael’s bun, not mine.

Driving into Halden felt so strange. Michael said it had felt strange to him to – in your mind are still all the roads and paths and light and routines of the place you have left, and you have to let them go and replace them with those of this place, but you are reluctant at first, you try to hold on. Norway has obliged by making it as easy as possible for me with a week of cold sunshine and frosted grass. Yesterday morning I looked out of the window and there were four young deer stepping carefully across our lawn.

Our friends are eager to see us. We feel welcomed. Felix has slotted back into barnehage life without a hiccup. I haven’t quite got enough winter things for Antonia to wear, but we are getting by. The days are light-filled. It was very clever of me to skip February.

When I walked in the door to our little house I thought – how is it possible to live in a house so small? It is perfectly possible, of course, and very lovely even, as long as you stay on top of all the cleaning and putting stuff away, so I have been attacking those things with gusto, making the small changes to our living space needed for a nearly seven month old baby instead of a three month one. An extra box of toys on the shelf instead of the box of changes of clothes we had down here before. The difference in Antonia and in the shape of our family after a space of three months is significant. She sits at the table with us now in her highchair. We need four glasses for water at dinner, so I pulled out a jug for water for us all, and it felt special. Antonia loves to drink water from a glass – she flaps her arms out wide with excitement, then grips the top of the glass and takes a couple of sips before blowing raspberries in it. Soon the novelty of all this will collapse into the every day, but I hope some of the specialness can stay.

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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One day

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These photos were all taken on one very full day at the end of June. We started out bright and early – around 6 – with trains, coffee beans and blocks. Felix had seen a picture of a wooden train track and a wooden-block town in one of his picture books the night before, and as soon as he woke up he demanded we head downstairs and get to work.

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After that we made scones for breakfast.

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and Felix cuddled the baby.
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Then I took him on a trip to the University College, because he’s always asking to visit my work. I didn’t take any photos there but he met some of my colleagues, at his sandwiches in our lunch spot, did some photocopying and stapling and made a little book including some colouring-in pictures that one of my colleagues kindly printed out for him. Then we went home and he coloured them in.

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Afternoon snack time – I finished my baby blanket and Felix made a duplo train track, and bricked up one of his engines in a huge shed.

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He was so proud of himself!

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The digger had to come and rescue the engine.

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Then it was time to cook dinner. Felix made his own ‘chocolate and raspberry cake’ on the kitchen floor. And I bet he went jumping on the trampoline later. So many things…

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