Munchkins by the sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Family

selfie-5We took this on Saturday at an autumn festival in town. Six weeks as a family of four, and one week successfully balancing the needs of  two children all by ourselves. Michael’s also very pleased with this one – two cheeky monkeys. The pair of them have exactly the same sense of humour involving nonsense and wordplay – I can’t keep up.

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The birth of Antonia Elinor Celeste

pregnancy-birth-9Warning: Long post. And, in Michael’s words, ‘men might not want to read it’ (a couple of gory details not left out). But when he got to the end he said he liked it very much. Here’s a link to Felix’s birth story.

In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, I walked. For most of the summer, the days were oppressively hot, but the evenings were long and light. Every night, once Felix had gone to sleep, I walked roads and paths and winding loops. Neighbours I had never spoken to greeted me from their gardens and tracked my progress. ‘Not long now,’ they would say. I walked past lawns and trampolines and inflatable pools. Once I saw a tiny deer. Once I walked to the forest, but it was the sky I wanted the most – the sweeps of pink and orange cloud, the watery blue, sunsets that would last an hour. And the moon, which grew and thinned and grew again. I remember looking up at a perfect full moon and thinking – maybe by the next time it’s full, she will be here.

The best place to look at the sky was walking by the wheat field. There is a lovely undulating wheat field not far from our house that catches all the colours of the sun. I found a little path along its far edge so I could look at it for longer.

As with Felix, I had to wait and wait for Antonia to come. I got to 40 weeks. I got to 41 weeks. Nothing. My midwife booked me in for an overdue ‘control’ at the hospital.

pregnancy-birth-4At the overdue appointment they gave me a CTG and an ultrasound to check heart rate, the placenta and umbilical cord, the amniotic fluid and the size and position of the baby. Everything was perfect. The doctor estimated the baby would be between 3.8 and 3.9kg. She examined me internally and found I was already 3cm dilated, giving me a prolonged poke while she was at it. It might be uncomfortable, she said, but it would be nice if we can get this to start on its own. Afterwards I felt crampy and washed out. She booked me in for an induction on Tuesday, when I would be 42 weeks, but said she expected I wouldn’t need it.

Mum was with me. I felt quite weak after the appointment so I let her drive, and we went across to the old town for lunch and apple cake. I had a couple of stray contractions accompanied by back pain. I did not think it would be long. When we got back home I fell into bed and had a much needed two hour nap.

Early that evening, utterly appropriately, we went across to my friend Margrethe’s house for brownies. It was her son’s first birthday. We had visited them for brownies and waffles the night before Felix was born, and the day before she had gone into labour with her daughter, we had been out for chocolate cake together. (This time I had tried to pre-empt things by inviting them over for brownies the night before my due date, to no avail.) We sat on their deck in the sun and it was lovely. Linnea rode her scooter, Felix snuggled with us as he was tired, and the birthday boy crawled proudly around the deck, pulling himself to his feet on their umbrella. I walked back home.

As I read Felix his bedtime stories around eight o’clock that night, I felt the beginnings of more regular contractions. I was glad. I snuggled him on my lap as I read, and lay opposite him as he cuddled up in bed. ‘Mummy loves you so so very much’, I told him. I watched my beautiful boy fall asleep, thinking of the hundreds of times I had done this over the past three years. My baby, my firstborn, my little boy. I lay for half an hour after he fell asleep, feeling the quiet waves of contractions and watching him breathe.

Downstairs I drank a glass of milk and ate some cherries. ‘Is the babbie coming tonight?’ asked Michael. ‘No,’ I lied. I didn’t feel like saying anything yet.

I went for a walk with Mum, as we did every night. We walked towards the wheat field. ‘Shall we try this little path through the trees?’ asked Mum. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I want to go past the field.’ We walked past the field and I looked at the light in the wheat. I looked at the huge moon, just one day from being full. I looked at the tiny orange and white berries on the trees. I sometimes had to alter my pace a little when the contractions came, but Mum didn’t notice. In my head, I counted through them. They would get stronger and dip away again when I reached 26 or so. I guessed they were coming every three to four minutes.

When we got back Michael was watching the end of a Dr Who Christmas special on TV, so I sat on the fit ball and joined him. When it finished I told them. ‘I think the babby’s coming tonight.’ ‘What – when do we have to leave?’ ‘A couple of hours, I think.’ It was ten o’clock. Michael raced off upstairs to finish something he had to write for work. Later he said it normally would have taken a whole day but he did it in half an hour.

I rocked around on the fit ball and wrote some messages to friends on facebook. Mum timed the contractions for a little while and they were coming every 3-5 minutes. They were still quite manageable but I remember thinking at the start of some of them – ‘I really don’t want to do this.’ Don’t be silly, I told myself, you need to stay positive. I had a shower. It was nearly 11 at this point and I was feeling a bit tired so decided to try to lie down for a while. I also wanted to make sure Michael got some rest as he’d been at work all day and I was anticipating we’d be up all night. We lay in bed and stroked our black cat Mermos. The space between contractions lengthened slightly but their intensity didn’t. After a while they started feeling a little too sharp for my liking, so I got up. ‘I’m going downstairs to call the hospital’, I said.

I paced around while on the telephone and they told me it was up to me whether I wanted to come in yet or not. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m coming.’

They were relatively strong and frequent now, I felt I had to brace myself against a doorway and flex my legs to manage them. I wrote a note for Felix and got out a chocolate egg for him. Mum packed us some cheese sandwiches and a hot water bottle. I felt so much more lucid, alert, and nervous than I had during Felix’s birth. I must have been doing a good job projecting calm because Michael didn’t realize for a while that we had to leave now, but soon enough, just after midnight, we were off.

At this point I was panicking slightly about how I would manage the 45 minute drive. But I turned the classical radio station on and that calmed me a lot. I found if I slapped my thighs hard in time to the music through the contractions, I could manage quite well. I listened to the sound it made. If the pain got worse, I slapped louder. I was grateful that I had read Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills in the lead-up to labour, as she talks about the efficacy of techniques like this – anything to distract your brain from the heart of the pain. I think sitting in the car also slowed the rate of the contractions, which helped a bit. ‘Tell me if I should be driving faster,’ said Michael. ‘No,’ I said, ‘there’s no hurry. I’ll probably be in a bit of pain, but there’s no danger.’ I explained about my weird tapping/slapping pain-management technique.

All the same, I was glad when we arrived. I staggered out of the car. Being upright again increased the pace and intensity of the contractions. It was hard to relax between them because I had the most terrible heartburn. I braced myself against the hospital walls and sign-posts during the contractions, and paced about quickly between them, as Michael got the parking ticket. 12.52am. I vomited into the hospital garden. Once I had collected myself a little, we went inside.

Huffing and panting through the corridors, we eventually found the right spot (the normal birthing wards were closed for the summer). I could barely speak to the midwives. They ushered us into a tiny room and our midwife fussed around for a while trying to attach the heart-beat monitor. I insisted on standing while she did it. The baby’s heartbeat was all good, so she made me climb up on the bed for a moment to check my dilation. 6cm already! I hopped down again immediately. I thought – I don’t want to do this. I can’t take hours of this. This time I just want an epidural and to lie quietly on the bed and relax. Of course I didn’t have time to say any of this, because the contractions kept coming and coming. Just do it, Mel, I told myself, don’t be scared, meet the contractions head on. There wasn’t time to think. During contractions I bent over, clutched the little side table, swayed my hips and groaned loudly. The noise helped a lot. The sounds I made were very, very low, I could feel the vibrations. In the short breaks between contractions I perched on the edge of the little bed, panting, clutching my legs just above my knees.

Last time the contractions had felt like a twisting, snarling dragon; this time they felt like a quick-rising sea of pain. I groaned and sang at them. I made different shapes with my mouth and listened to the different tones it made. I spared half a thought for poor Michael having to listen to it all but put it out of my head. I needed to focus. When the pain worsened I bellowed louder and louder. Not screaming, roaring. Michael said they would have been able to hear me on the other side of the river. And all of a sudden the sounds I was making changed slightly and I found my legs wide apart and something pressing down between them.

The midwife looked up from the computer screen on the other side of the bed. You need to climb up on the bed now, she said. Michael helped me up. I did not like being on the bed at all. I felt panicky. I need to check you, she said. I need to do a poo! I yelled. She needs to do a poo! said Michael. It’s the baby, she said.

Suddenly there were about four midwives crowding around the end of the bed. They fussed around trying to get my legs in the right position. Eventually we ascertained they wanted me to hook my hands under my knees and hold them up that way. This wasn’t particularly comfortable. I tried to rest one of my legs on Michael.

Don’t push! They said. Are you joking? I thought. Don’t push, said Michael. Ok, I thought. I remembered the book I had read. If they tell you not to push, you need to pant, lots of short little breaths. I panted loudly. I didn’t push but my body pushed a little on its own, I couldn’t stop it. This was new to me, it hadn’t happened at all with Felix. That’s great, they said, fantastic. Breathe normally!!! They told me once the contraction had finished. As in Felix’s birth, it was getting a little difficult to tell when I was having a contraction.

Eventually they said, ok, when the next contraction comes, then you can push. A big baby wedged inside your birth canal is uncomfortable. I don’t like this! I thought. But I thought – I need to work as hard and as cleverly as I can so that this is over as quickly as possible. I clenched a wet face-cloth with my teeth. I held my breath and pushed, three times per contraction. Is everything ok? Michael asked the midwives. Yes, they said, everything is perfect. This was reassuring, as it all felt very strange and very quiet. Only a few contractions later, she was coming out. Wait, they said, wait… ok, push. I felt a large, lumpy thing sliding through. She was out. She was quiet for a few long seconds, and then I heard her grizzling, and then she was flopping on my belly and I held my child.

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pregnancy-birth-29I was stunned. 1.47am. It had been less than half an hour since I was 6cm dilated. Less than an hour since we drove into the hospital car park. And I felt – fine. At Felix’s birth I had been so dazed and exhausted, but now I just felt normal. But here was our baby! Better than an epidural – it was already over. Michael kissed me.

antonia-1-1After what felt like far too long they finally let us transfer to the recovery room. Antonia curled up on my chest and I held my daughter for hours as the sun came up on her very first day.

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Packages

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Michael turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. There’s a tradition at his work that your colleagues decorate your office to mark the occasion and this is what they came up with. The packages are because Michael loves ordering things, and the huge photo of Trinity College library is a nod to the office library he has singlehandedly created. Felix loved it and insisted on taking the littlest package home.

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Mushroom hunting

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We went to the forest, and Felix hunted for mushrooms.

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We found hundreds, all shapes, big and small, but I didn’t think to photograph them. I’m wearing a t-shirt I knitted myself in the summer holidays. It reminds me of sunshine and honey.

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We told Felix not to pick the mushrooms because the moose needed to eat them.

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And the crocodiles, he said.

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Austria

We are here again, the little town in a long valley between tall mountains, surrounded by geraniums and cow-bells and cable cars. It is always an effort to get here but now we are here we are unwinding fast and enjoying the uncharacteristically extraordinary weather. Herbert and Moni couldn’t join us this year as Herbert had a stroke a few weeks ago. He’s doing really well and physically fine, so maybe they’ll be able to come next year. My parents and grandparents join us in a few days but for the moment we are enjoying the rare treat of a few days just for us. We are both exhausted – it has been a heavy year – so sunshine and mountains are doing us good. Michael has been flying but my mother instincts are keeping me on the ground.

I hadn’t realised quite how much Felix has grown up till we took him to the swimming pool yesterday. Last year he refused to go in the big pool, and we haven’t been in a swimming pool since, but this time he didn’t want us to help him at all and tried to swim off on his own! So we bought him some floating devices today and will see how he goes with those later. I just held him a little and he kicked his legs and splashed his arms, and pretty much swam along! Then he’d scramble out and get into the splash-pool, wriggling and jumping and crawling around, in his words ‘kicking and splashing and kicking and splashing!’ He’d touch the bottom with his hands and kick his legs. He didn’t even mind it when his face went underwater. I was utterly shocked. He also got his own back and with great glee ‘washed mummy’s hair’, tipping water all over my head and my face.

Earlier in the day he even went on the toboggan down the mountainside with Michael. I didn’t think he’d be up to it, but offered to take him on my lap, after we’d waited in the queue at the top of the mountain for at least twenty minutes. He absolutely refused and wanted to go in his own toboggan, so I took off on my own, leaving Michael to deal with the melt-down. As I zoomed down the mountain, I thought, what were we thinking, there’s no way the little guy would cope with this. At the bottom, I waited in the sun, expecting to see them coming down in the cable car, but fifteen minutes later the two of them arrived by toboggan! I was so proud of both of them. Apparently Felix loved going ‘really fast!’ and Michael had to explain that sometimes they needed to brake.

After all those achievements we were a bit too relaxed in the playground on the way home, and he had quite a fall, gaining a bloody nose and a fat lip. I felt terrible, but luckily he got off quite lightly and is fine now. Negotiating the balance of when to protect and when to let go is already a difficult thing.

In the park

This is the little park in the centre of town. We walk through it to get to the main street. The windows of our favourite cafe face onto it. When I wrote this post, when Felix was a tiny babe, I was looking out onto the rotunda covered in snow.

We stopped in the park to let Felix run around a bit yesterday, after he’d been so good sitting in the stroller looking at all the boats.

Felix loves to climb up the steps to the rotunda and swing its gate open and shut.

But I think this picture of him riding the wooden pony with the wind in his hair is about as sweet as you can get.

This one’s for Michael

I took this photo on Saturday last week, before Michael left on Sunday morning for a week’s work in Florida. The little guy and I have been doing fine on our own – I’m finding it much easier than the couple of times Michael went away while we were in America. Our own house and good friends around the corner help a lot. And I guess the social contact of us both going to the barnehage helps a lot too. I’d even arranged one of my friends to babysit tonight (a first!) so I could go out to dinner with some colleagues, but Felix came down with a fever this afternoon so I had to cancel. I’m disappointed but not devastated. It’s just the way it goes sometimes…

On the way home from the barnehage we drive past the street where Michael works. Yesterday Felix got very distressed and pointed urgently at the street, saying ‘Dadda?’ Not long now, little man.

Sand and sun

It’s been a busy week and both my boys were stricken with gastro for a couple of days but today the sun finally came back and both boys felt better so Michael built Felix a sand-pit.

It turned out pretty great.

I went inside to make some waffles and from the kitchen window I could see them playing in the sand-pit. At that moment I was so very grateful. After waffles the sun still shone and shone so we walked to the forest.

Last time Felix had been here he was about this big. Now, all of a sudden, there is a little boy holding my hand. And it was a very good day 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.

Happy New Year!

I have been looking back at the snow-filled posts of last December, and this year is so different for us! (Apparently the winter in Norway is much milder this year anyway, so we haven’t actually missed out on much snow after all.)

2011 has been busy and brilliant as predicted. We have traveled to some amazing places, met some excellent people and weathered some sleepless nights,

but the most wondrous thing has been seeing our little guy grow up before our very eyes.

We are enjoying our two months in the sun before we go back to Norway to resume everyday life. I imagine that will be an adventure in itself with an almost one year old on board. To all my regular readers – thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the journey – I really appreciate having you around. We wish you all the very best for 2012!

Pappaperm

Michael is so good at taking photos of me that we have hardly any of him! I’m going to try to rectify this. This week was the beginning of his two month ‘pappapermisjon’, paternity leave, which we have decided to spend in Australia.

Michael bought this truck for Felix and I think it’s his favourite toy yet.

Felix and the paragliders

We took Felix to meet the paragliders this morning. (Yep, we’re back in Salt Lake City for the long weekend. You can’t keep us away!) He was very happy strutting about in his sling with his sunnies on. That’s Michael to the left of my right shoulder.

Here he is launching. I thought about having a go but the wind was pretty strong, and this primal maternal instinct kicked in that said: stay on the ground with your baby!

I intend to conquer this instinct soon, and did manage a little hop from lower down the slope before we left. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to be up there?

Sunday, June 19

There are a lot of signs around at the moment informing me that this Sunday is father’s day. ‘Dad wants a recliner’, they say, ‘Dad wants boots’. ‘Buy Dad a nook for father’s day’. All week the supermarkets have sported ‘Dad’ themed cakes and cupcakes, including one luridly iced one resembling a BBQ grill. I am happy to say none of these have made an appearance in this house, although I know Michael misses his recliner.

Today is also the day, seven years ago, when Michael and I caught a train from York to Leeds together, and came back holding hands. This was a very good thing indeed.

Seven years, and many adventures (and countries) later, we are three, not two. We’ve learnt to paraglide, visited each other’s homelands, weathered some storms, and learnt how to soothe an overtired baby. I love both my guys dearly. Michael is doing a superb job of this fatherhood business. Felix is always so happy to see him when he comes home from work, and no one can make him laugh quite like Michael can. Here’s to another seven years, my love. x

A Swedish weekend

We drove past the stone ship and down to the coast, where we got our fill of sun. But the real fun started when we got back to Norway, and our Swedish friend put on a traditional kraftor party at our house.

It involved silly hats, lots of these clawed creatures, and just as much snaps, augmented with wine and beer. Oh, and songs. You were supposed to eat a crayfish or two, sing a swedish song, and knock back a shot of snaps.

I joined in the singing even if I couldn’t indulge in the snaps. It was quite entertaining watching everyone else get more and more plastered. As Michael put it – ‘The party was great. Rocking up at work the next day – not so much.’

At some point we had to sing the Swedish national anthem. All well and good. Until someone translated for us and we realised we’d declared a burning desire to live and to die in the North. This is all very nice for now, but can we take that back?