We’re a week into the kids’ summer holidays. I must admit I was a little apprehensive (and it has had its moments) but it has been truly lovely to spend some proper time with these guys. Julius is a cheerful little thing who’s happy to fit in as long as he gets lots of cuddles. He loves to look deeply into your eyes and coo and smile, but it’s difficult to photograph his smile as he distrusts phones and cameras… Antonia is her delightful, energetic, engaging self. She says she’d like to do summer holidays on her own soon. ‘What would you do if you had holidays on your own?’ I asked her. ‘Take a walk in the forest. Climb a tree.’ Felix spends most of his down time building lego. He made a ‘music shop’ this morning, complete with a piano. And last night he was dancing, very creatively, by himself for half an hour, to Rick Astley’s ‘Never gonna give you up’, which he specially requested Michael to put on. I took the photo above just after he’d finished, his face flushed and hair tousled with exertion… These little beings are ridiculously hard work and ridiculously amazing.
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.
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.
Late Saturday afternoon we all walked down to our little beach. Antonia needed some coaxing, but once we got there she was in her element. Straight away she sourced herself a long stick to go ‘fishing’ with, and sat poking the water for a long time, in between finding stones to throw in, and stones for me too. This was a welcome change from every other time we’ve been there, when I have been responsible for sourcing the stones. She even let me have a turn of her fishing rod. Felix, who had raced ahead, and sat pensively on a bench looking out over the water by the time we arrived, was disappointed that all the ice had melted. But he quickly decided that climbing up all the rocks would be worthwhile anyway, and scrambled around the place on his own for a while before convincing Michael to join the rock scaling adventure. We watched the yellow light on the water as the sun dipped behind the hills on the other side of the fjord.
Today we had a picnic in the little patch of forest right next to our house. Michael strung up two hammocks he had brought back from America, and lit a little twig stove to toast marshmallows. It was just. so. good. Like camping, or being on holiday, but only one minute from our garden. Antonia got a little stroppy around nap time (I don’t bother trying to get her down anymore, but sometimes you can see she needs it), but she redeemed herself later, finding a ‘salad’ for me of twigs and leaves. She insisted on going out again just before bed – she dresses herself in her snowsuit, boots and hat, and heads out the door. She instructed me on when to walk and when to follow, where to put the pinecones she found for me, and then sat down with a stick on her lap, pretended it was some kind of musical instrument, and sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I had to do it too.
It’s light till half past six now. It feels like a different world.
Apart from this I cleaned and did laundry, which felt overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but now I feel so much better. Felix helped by spontaneously tidying up the family room so I could vacuum. The house was in chaos from Michael being away for eight days, back for two, then away again for two (he got back on Friday night), and we were both exhausted and near the end of our tether. But it is better now. It was so good to be outside in the forest all together. There is some kind of grace in this place. It is good to be here.
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.
So the new house has lots of outside spaces to play in. One morning shortly after we moved in I walked into the hallway to find Felix solicitously putting Antonia’s shoes on so they could play together outside. We’ve been here two weeks now and the weather has been gorgeous and we’ve been outside a lot. And we’ve instituted a new rule of not leaving our computers lying around and not having them turned on when the kids are around. (Screen time was getting a bit out of control.) After just a couple of days they’ve completely stopped asking to watch anything, and as well as hanging out outside a lot we’re reading more books and making more puzzles, and it is good.
I didn’t get many photos but we had such a lovely day. Felix wore his spiderman costume all day (even to the shops this morning), and went out trick or treating for the first time tonight. Unsurprisingly, he thought it was The Best Thing Ever. This was the first time he’s a agreed to wear a costume since he was a very cute pumpkin at eight months old. Antonia wore her costume to barnehage yesterday but was only interested in the hat today. Had a lovely little party this evening with home made pizza (I made the base, my friends did the toppings), swirly coloured meringues, incredible Halloween chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow cream cheese frosting (who knew?), and various other goodies, and the kids had a ball covering the floor with train tracks, tearing round the house waving plastic weapons at each other, and collapsing cheerfully onto the floor for little breaks. But Felix says the day after Halloween is even more special because Daddy comes home.
Felix: swinging high.
Antonia: under the weather and over-tired, at last submits to being strapped into the stroller. Felix took this. Michael has taken to calling her Beethoven, because of the curls. ‘What’s Beethoven’, asks Felix. It has led to some sweet moments of the two of them sitting on his lap, watching a performance of Ode to Joy on youtube.
It’s almost exactly a year since I took these photos in the old town in Fredrikstad. I thought to myself – I’ll go back and take another one of the pair of them on that sofa in that cafe. We met up with a good friend and her two year old and went to the train museum, but our favourite cafe was completely packed, so no sofa photo. Antonia has been in poor shape, but I enjoyed the misty autumn afternoon anyway. The kids were tired after half an hour in the playground, so no time for landscape photos either, but that little town is so pretty this time of year, it’s good for the soul.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.
It’s høstferie this week, which is basically the autumn school holidays, just one week. There’s no teaching at university either. I had planned to use this time to get ahead on class preparation and rewrite an article, but Antonia has been sick (not dreadfully sick, though but they kept sending her home from barnehage). I couldn’t send her today so I decided to keep Felix home as well. We’ve all been hit by a cold this week, actually, so it is good to have a little pause.
We walked to our favourite cafe in the harbour, and Felix devoured his favourite custard bun. The ritual of the custard bun began when he was barely one, and he hasn’t tired of it yet.
Antonia doesn’t like buns but she was happy enough drinking the foam from my latte and playing with a fireman’s helmet. They have a few boxes of toys, a play kitchen and a play table, enough to keep the little ones occupied for a while.
They both pottered around with the toys quite happily for a bit. These are some of my very favourite moments – the sun slanting through the cafe, contented children, mine, a breath, a pause…
Then we wandered around the harbour before meeting up with friends in the afternoon.
The clouds and sun were all silky in the water.
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.
I’m not sure why traveling around the UK with the two of them is relatively easy, even fun, but staying at home for a week with them feels, at times, like sticking pins into my eyes. Well, I sort of know. The travel thing is exciting and novel and there’s always lots to do. Here we do stuff in the mornings and I spend the early afternoon trying to get Antonia to have her nap, and the late afternoon letting her have it, and Felix gets a bit overwrought despite trampolines and craft supplies. But today we had a very nice morning in the newly upgraded playground in town, and on Monday (when I took these photos) we enjoyed going out for a piece of cake at the bakery in the shopping centre.
Michael couldn’t understand why I found the above photo so amusing, but for me it sums up a lot of my days. Antonia: what have you go there, Mummy? Can I have it? Felix: Twirling about in his own little world, covered in cake crumbs, planning his next antic/question/project/point of discussion. The other day we ended up talking about what people looked like in the nineteenth century, because he wanted to know. (He doesn’t know about the nineteenth century, really, but he knows about ‘when there were steam trains’).
Today Antonia got a huge bruise on her head from falling off Felix’s wicker chair, and Felix had a massive melt-down at dinner time, exactly as Michael walked in the door, because he couldn’t stick together the little sticks he was pretending were logs in exactly the way he intended. Good thing they are cute.
Felix: the boy loves his trains. And grass and stones and stories and running and jumping, and the giggles of his baby sister.
Antonia: she loves the grass and stones and dirt and sticks and leaves and space to crawl and rocks to climb and oh she loves her brother.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.
I took these pictures in the museum gardens in York this afternoon. It’s our last day here. We’ve done everything I hoped to. We even made it to the second birthday party of the son of a dear friend yesterday, and it was fabulous. We went back to the train museum today, and later, when the weather cleared, chilled out in the museum gardens. When we arrived I was so utterly tired that when Felix asked me to play with him I sent him off to make friends with random children, left Antonia in the stroller for a minute, and stretched out on the lawn. This could not last long – Antonia insisted on crawling around and I had to watch them both, but I noticed after half an hour or so, I didn’t feel so weary. I did play with Felix, and after a brief battle, the train and the cars went to the supermarket together, and swimming in the sea, and had a sleepover, and it was all rather sweet. There’s no playground in this park but it’s conducive to play anyway – with ruins to jump from and lawns to run about. It was a lovely afternoon.
And I couldn’t resist posting this one too, although it’s crooked. My little barefoot pudding in the grass – I could just eat her up. Her clothes get filthy at the moment but I have to let her play.
Felix: at the beach on our last day in Germany.
Antonia: learned to clap this week! What an achievement this is! She is so so pleased with herself. She’s wearing the most gorgeous cardigan here that my Nanna made for her. I took this photo up at the lawns of the fortress where we spent the day with my aunt and uncle, visiting from Australia.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week (a little late, this time) in 2015.
I want to wish a rich and lovely new year to all who still stop by to read here.
We had a BBQ in the park on New Year’s Day. It was a pretty perfect day for Felix, involving a babyccino with his grandparents in the morning, sausages and ice cream and his ‘twin’ second cousin to play with in the adventure playground at lunch time, and another BBQ in the evening with even more ‘little guys’ (the kids of my old uni friends), a paddling pool, backyard swings and plastic trains. In this photo my two are laughing and loving and trying to eat each other up.
On New Years Day last year we walked along the causeway to Granite Island and I ate a huge piece of chocolate cake. Antonia was just a tiny flicker within me. I was exhausted, queazy, nervous and relieved, and looking forward to the year ahead. And what a year it has been. Time for another.
We talked for months about Antonia being born at the end of summer and she was – the weekend she was born signalled a shift in the weather, and suddenly it was autumn. The summer had belonged to Felix – weeks of visiting the beach every day, elaborate craft projects and eating cherries in the garden. Because this is Antonia’s autumn I am loving even the mist and the rain.
I remember Felix’s first autumn, complete with an extravagant American halloween and an adorable pumpkin costume. And I remember my first autumn in Halden, wandering along the river, taking photos of the fiery leaves, finishing my phd, dreaming of what my life might hold. I walk the same paths now with my beloved girl, and feel so different, so rooted. My hands are cold but my heart is oh so warm.
Felix singing Twinkle Twinkle to Antonia one morning. He loves her but I find myself saying frequently – ‘she’s sleeping, don’t touch her, crash into her, or put things on top of her.’
We’ve been home alone this week as Michael is in America. It has its moments. Actually it is all moments – noisy, calm, sweet, rushed, funny, headachy, whiny, cuddly, snuffly, bouncy… The trick is not to worry too much about which moments are coming next. And if there is a quiet moment to relax into it. Like this one – Antonia entranced by the dryer.
It has been rainy and the light on the wet leaves made me think of this poem by Clive James.
With an increase of unsupervised time in the house, strange things are happening. I find the coffee plunger in the fridge. Felix puts the shopping away and his ham ends up in the freezer. He pulls all the measuring cups out of the kitchen cupboard and washes them in the bathroom sink. The scrubbing brush goes missing. I find my boots on the draining board.
I stuck them both in the bath yesterday. Once Antonia was dry and dressed I raced upstairs to fetch Felix’s pyjamas. Returning, I found he’d squirted her all over with a plastic syringe. Daddy did it, he said.
I bought Antonia some bright red stockings, and together with a dress from my aunt, a cardigan made by my Nanna, and a bib from Mum, they just make me so happy.
Right now Antonia is having a long morning nap (the first long nap for a few days) and I’ve persuaded Felix to watch Thomas the Tank Engine so I can write. Folding the washing can wait.
Michael is away this week and after a rainy morning I decided to take the kids to Fredrikstad for the afternoon. The morning had involved more train tracks and wooden blocks – on Saturday Felix and I made the walls of York, and airport and a ‘battery powered’ wooden aeroplane. On Sunday, at Felix’s request, we made a tank station, a shop, a brocolli machine, an asparagus machine and a bread machine, taking full advantage of Antonia’s long morning nap. I was a bit nervous about what could go wrong taking the two of them to Fredrikstad alone, especially as prams are not allowed in the train museum or our favourite cafe. But I’m so glad we went – it was one of those outings when everything works. Felix was happy to have a reasonably short visit to the musuem – ‘I’m bored now Mummy, I want to get something to eat’. (In the past it’s been so painful to prise him out of that place.) And we scored the table with the sofa in the cafe – resulting in possibly my favourite photo ever of the two of them. I didn’t notice the advice on the cushion at the time, but it sums up the day well: ‘do what you love’. After the cafe Felix wanted to find the little bridge with the stones. Eventually I worked out he wanted to go to the little pier we had found last time, to throw stones in the river. This suited me, as we got to walk along the gorgeous earth walls above the moat. (The old town of Fredrikstad has a moat shaped like a star.) In the backpack he has everything short of the kitchen sink, really – a china tea set and his mini pots and pans. It was quite heavy but he carried it all the way.
I took the two little ones on a walk to feed the ducks and look at the beaver homes on Sunday afternoon. My ambition of taking a photo of the three of us feeding the ducks was quickly abandoned in favour of making sure Felix didn’t fall in the water, scaring away two bold ducks on Felix’s behalf, rescuing the bread-bag, and scooping Antonia off to find a bench for a feed. But we had a nice walk.
Above, Felix is grumpy that I am taking photos instead of retrieving the huge stick he threw into the water. Needless to say, I rescued the stick. After a feed and a short nap in the pram, Antonia looked up at all the trees with her quiet, shiny eyes.
We 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.
Last weekend we had the most gorgeous picnic and walk around a little lake. It was so sweet watching Michael and Felix race ahead of me, ‘discovering’ engines trapped in the ‘mines’ under the big rocks, and ringing the rescue service to come and save them.
I’m 37 weeks in this photo, but you can’t see much cos of what I’m wearing.
It was a truly perfect outing, topped off by plenty of blueberries.
Felix spends hours on his tricycle every day. When we pick him up from the barnehage he is always completely shattered from riding his friends around on the double tricycle for three hours straight. This afternoon all he wanted to do was ride his trike to our friends house, so I rallied my non-existant third trimester energy and followed him over there. When we got there they were out. ‘But where can I ride now?’ he asked. ‘I know,’ I said, ‘we’ll go to the harbour.’
After a quick stop for buns and a latte, after which I felt much better (Halden now has cafes open on Sunday afternoon!) we were off. ‘It’s so lovely!’ he said.
He rode through as many puddles as possible all the way to the train station.
He was a bit annoyed I wouldn’t let him get on the train,
but rode all the way to the end of the line.
When we got back to the harbour I collapsed onto a bench and let him ride laps up and down both sides. If you look very closely you can just make him out on the other side of the water. Even when we got home again he wasn’t finished – eating bites of spaghetti between rounds of our deck. Such a special afternoon.
This evening I sat outside with Felix for half an hour before bedtime. I sat on the steps and knitted a baby blanket. He sped around riding his tricycle on the deck. It was pretty cold – I had to swap to my winter coat, but it was nowhere near dark. Michael had taken him outside to drive the remote control car, and then Felix asked for his bike, and we swapped. Felix is pretty good at pedalling now – he’s been practicing in the barnehage. He’s very proud of himself. He would ride up to me, stop, then say ‘goodbye Mummy, see you later!’ and do another round. It was one of those perfect moments – the grey-gold light between the still bare trees and the houses and the green green lawns, the tiny beginnings of new leaves on the hedges, the first rows of the baby blanket under my fingers, and Felix coasting around and around, chatting as he passed. And he said: ‘Mummy, before I was Felix I missed you soooooo many time’.
And it seemed as if time was centred in this moment, everything before and after pointed to now.
We have been talking a fair bit lately about where people come from, and about things that happened before Felix was born (he always says, but where was I?). He says, ‘When I was a baby…’ And he says, ‘When you were a baby…’ He says, ‘Who’s tummy was Daddy inside?’ He says, ‘how do you make a Felix?’ (Ask your father.) Once in the car he said: ‘When you were a little guy… Are you going to be little again?’ ‘No, I’ll never be little again.’ ‘But I want you to be small like me!’ ‘But I can’t be small because then I couldn’t look after you.’ ‘I want you to look after me.’
When we first started talking about the baby, he said, ‘There’s a baby in your tummy? And it’s not me?’ And later, we were walking by a busy road, and I said ‘be careful Felix and listen to Mummy otherwise a car might crash into you and there won’t be any more Felix.’ ‘Yes there will,’ he said, ‘in your tummy.’
He talks about the baby nearly every day. Last night we all sat on the sofa. He pointed at my leg. ‘One,’ he said. Then at Michael’s leg – ‘two.’ Then at himself – ‘three’, and then at my belly – ‘four’.
Truly his curiosity has been one of the nicest things about this pregnancy so far. It is a pregnancy I have longed for for more than two years, since Felix was a baby himself. I was not sure it would happen again, and I feel so utterly lucky. It is strange to think that the probability is very high now indeed that I will have a baby at the end of this. Things will change. And I am trying, in these last three months in which there are only three of us, to soak my little boy in, to listen to him, to be present for him.
As he rode around he talked to himself and to me. ‘The baby doesn’t like to sykler?’ he said. ‘No, it’s not so safe. But I’ll ride again later when the baby has come out.’ ‘When the baby’s bigger…’ He rode some more. ‘Do more stitches!’ He demanded, when I paused to look up over the trees. (A welcome change from his customary demands that I stop.) ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he said. ‘And Daddy. And the baby.’ And then he told me he missed me before he was born.
Had such a lovely day today. So much sunshine. It was the first day it really felt like spring, so I met some friends at a lake with a beach and and ice cream shop, and the little boys were in heaven. As soon as we got the water Felix ran straight in and his jeans and winter boots got soaked, so we took them off. Then he insisted on taking his undies off so for a while he was running around in a winter coat and nothing else! Then of course the coat came off. I sat with my friends on the rocks and drank tea from a thermos and felt the sun warm on my face. Felix threw stones into the water with his little friend. He eventually talked me into taking my shoes off and dipping my toes in, and the water was like ice. There was a ten minute walk back to the car, and he held my hand, wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt, underpants, and wet winter boots. My darling, funny, funny boy.
We have been talking about taking the side off his cot for more than a year, and the response ‘yes, we’ll do it soon’, has been starting to wear thin. This morning when I went in to get him, he had managed to loosen one of the bars. ‘I’m taking the bars off, Mummy, help me!’ And indeed he managed to take two of them out, so we decided today was indeed the day. He was giddy with delight all morning, realising he could jump onto his bed whenever he wanted, and ‘hide’ under his quilt. We’ll see what awaits us tomorrow morning…
This evening Felix sat on my lap and stroked my belly. ‘Baby’, he said, and drove his little car down the slope. ‘You can talk to her, Felix,’ said Michael, you can say ‘BAH!’ ‘Noooo, the baby doesn’t like that.’ We chatted about babies and ‘tubes’ (umbilical cords) and names for a while, and I tried to explain that Oma had chosen Michael’s name, because Oma was Michael’s Mummy. It suddenly got a bit confusing, and Felix said ‘I think Mummy should always keep Daddy and Mummy and the baby and Felix’, and I said yes, we are together, this is our family.
We went to Australia. For Christmas. For Ages. It was great.
We got back nearly two weeks ago. It took a week to combat the jet-lag, and until today, really, for me to get used to the cold. It’s not even that cold – it’s been hovering around -4. Tonight the fire whirs and snowflakes drift in the streetlight outside. Today I took Felix to Gamlebyen to look at the model train museum, and it was, in his words, a lovely afternoon. The most difficult part was getting him to leave the place. The bribe of a hot-chocolate nearly didn’t cut it.
Each November since I defected to the northern hemisphere has been a struggle. Things seem to lift in December, strangely. But November is the drizzly tail-end of autumn and the beginning of the dark and you are tired. The unpleasantness of this particular November is amplified by the stacks of marking which have to be done on top of the already more than full time teaching prep. But each week passes. Tonight Michael was in Oslo for the evening so I took Felix out to our favourite cafe for dinner. I had a salmon burger; he had a bun.
‘It’s all dark here!’ He said as we walked back. ‘We can’t see very well! It’s all dark! And there are lights! This light and this light and this light!’ And I paused, and looked back at the little golden lights of the main street, glowing in the chilly air and on the cobblestones. And I thought – this is November’s gift – the new dark and the little lights.
Yesterday Felix boycotted Halloween. He’s very fussy about clothes and there was no way he was wearing a costume – not a black cat for me, nor a pumpkin for Michael. He was the only child in the barnehage who wasn’t dressed up. In the evening, we talked about Halloween, and he said – ‘I like Christmas. Shall we make a star for Christmas? Shall we do that now?’ So we did.
Not only did I finish Felix’s jumper, but I convinced him to wear it today. I’m not sure which is the greater achievement.
Note the crooked haircut. The only way he’d let me near him with the scissors was if I let him watch Thomas on the ipod. Not exactly conducive to straight lines, but at least he can see now.
Yesterday afternoon after a long week I looked up from my books and my computer screen to realise the sun was shining though my brain was like sludge, so I picked up Felix half an hour early and we went to our favourite cafe for tea – mushroom soup and cheesecake for me, and an I-can’t-be–bothered-convincing-you-to-eat-something-else-first bun for Felix. Then we walked out to the park and the sun and the leaves.
Felix collected a lot of chestnuts to post to Grandma. Grandma will like them? Very pretty for Grandma? I want to post lots of them to Grandma. I’m not sure what Australian customs will say about this, but I decided not to mention it. Then it was on to the leaves.
It was exactly what we needed.
Well that week went fast. Blink and you miss it. I can’t believe this was a week ago. Last Sunday Felix and i went to the fortress twice – the first time just the two of us, the second time to meet a friend.
These days it’s impossible to take photos such as these – I’m too busy making sure the boy’s not about to tumble off a cliff.
But there are compensations. When I asked Felix was his favourite part of the day was, he said the puddle.
Felix’s train engines are having polite conversations as they shunt each other around the track. ‘Can you take my flat bed for me?’ ‘Of course I will. Straight away. We’ll have you back on the track in no time.’ I wonder what percentage of Felix’s life so far consists of pushing little wooden trains around and making up stories. He’s all floppy hair and blue pyjamas. We’ve already cooked and eaten pancakes. Baking is his other passion. ‘Shall we make something in Mummy’s kitchen?’ By the time I’ve finished cooking my pancake, he’s nearly finished his. ‘Who’s going to eat Mummy’s pancake?’ ‘Mummy!’ ‘Who else?’ ‘Just Mummy.’ ‘Mummy share!’ I acquiesce but he realises he’s full and its back to the trains.
Tomorrow it is back to teaching for me after a much needed høstferie, autumn break. Six weeks into the semester now, and it’s been great but intense – I committed to a little too much so I feel I’m rather stumbling through the weeks, and would be doing a better job if I were doing less. All the same, while teaching British civilisation as well as literature has been challenging, it’s been fascinating, and I hope I have the chance to do it again. I’m thrilled to have some more teaching lined up for next semester (a much civilised 8 hours a week, instead of 13).
The cold kicked in here about three weeks ago. Until then it was cold in the mornings but warm by midday, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t. The colours are gorgeous. I’ve nearly finished knitting a jumper for Felix – just have to cast off the neckline and sew in all the ends. I have lacked the momentum to do so this past week as I know actually getting the thing on him is going to be a ridiculous struggle. Despite chatting endlessly about how it’s ‘nearly winter’ and we have to wear ‘lots of clothes’, the reality of wearing more layers is not going down well.
The boy needs some attention now. I may be back.
A week and a half ago, just after my parents and grandparents left to make their way back home, I felt the first hint of autumn in the air. The whole of July was just the most blissful, glorious summer, and it won’t be forgotten. I’ve been very busy since they left preparing for teaching which starts on Monday. There are a couple of nerves of course and a crazy amount of stuff to do, which won’t let up till late December, but I am so excited about it all. More later. But I wanted to share some of my favourite photos. There will be more to come, if I manage to squeeze some time out of my evenings to post them.
We had the best time with my parents and grandparents. One of the sweetest things to see was Felix’s reaction when he saw my Mum. ‘Damma!’ (Grandma!) he exclaimed, and raced into the lift which she hadn’t even had the time to step out of, and gave her the most enormous hug. Felix only ever hugs his favourite people. I was so pleased that weekly skype chats are enough to ensure my Mum is one of them.
The place pictured above had the most amazing play area.
Poppa was also a huge favourite – especially his carefully chosen bag of tricks that was raided every time we went out to dinner. Here they are watching a digger.
It’s raining and still a little light at 10pm. I’m sitting in my office room, which has been recently cleared of more than a hundred exam papers, and is calm, white, inviting. Today was my last day at work at the barnehage for a while. Summer holidays start tomorrow, and then I have six months leave in order to take up a full-time temporary post at the University College in my town. I’m excited and a little nervous. Before my summer holidays start for real, I need to finish off a very important job application, due Monday, but here I am, writing on my blog instead.
I felt a little strange at work today, because I didn’t know whether I was saying goodbye or not. The afternoon was warm with a threat of rain so the kids wore their rain trousers and boots and peddled madly on the tricycles and bounced on the bouncy balls and splashed in the puddles and dug in the sand. There are two job applications in the works, and if either of them comes through (far from a certainty) I won’t be coming back to work in the barnehage. I’ve been away a lot this semester, due largely (though not entirely) to my teaching commitments, so I felt less in tune with the place than I would have liked. In any case, I have good friends there, and Felix will continue to go there, so I’ll maintain a connection with the staff and the children. Several of the children in my class have just turned four, and I’ve been working with them for three years. To see them grow up from babies to chatty, clever little people who can write their own names in the role book is quite extraordinary.
Michael has been away this week but it is much less exhausting being alone with Felix now he is a little older. Can’t wait to spend more time with my little man throughout July. He’s so incredibly entertaining at the moment, and loves acting out scenes from his favourite Thomas the Tank Engine stories with his trains and buses, complete with snippets of dialogue and renditions of the theme song.
Today was filled with sunshine and parks and little boys running, laughing, laughing, shouting, climbing, poking sticks in fountains and stones through holes, giggling, munching, singing, counting. In the morning Felix and I went to the park in the centre of town, and he hooked up with a noisy three year old chasing the pigeons. They had a ball following each other around. In the end the other boy followed Felix to the fountain and they poked it with sticks. ‘En, to, tre!’ they counted, then flung their little stick-boats in the water. The mother of the other boy came over and we had a lovely chat in Norwegian. It cheered me up enormously after my stressful spoken Norwegian exam yesterday. I had felt so stupid and incompetent, but it turns out I have enough Norwegian to chat with a patient mother in a park, after all.
In the afternoon I met up with two fellow foreigners who have boys just a little younger than Felix, and we went to a playground by a huge lake and had ice-cream together and just the nicest time imaginable. Now I have to tidy the kitchen again (Michael, my trusted kitchen cleaner, is away), and learn some more Norwegian verbs before bed (written test coming up on Tuesday), but sunshine pretty much makes up for everything.
The first of May is a holiday here so we took full advantage and wandered off to the forest in the morning. Felix is happy to sit in the stroller for the fifteen minutes it takes to reach the edge of the forest because he knows he’ll be able to run around once he gets there.
Felix had fun hiding behind trees
and banging them with sticks.
After a picnic lunch Felix raced off to chase the deer in the field.
There were two of them today, though I didn’t manage to take a photo of them. When we came here last weekend, there were six! I couldn’t stop Felix trying to reach them. ‘Want a pat?’, he said, ‘just want a cuddle!’. Later he informed Michael that deer are ‘a bit shy’.
Today when I went downstairs with Felix, I was tired. Michael is away again this week after being back for the weekend. Felix has been sick and on Sunday night and Monday morning we had to go to doctor three times in twelve hours. He seemed a bit better so I contemplated sending him to the barnehage so I could rest and read. He begged to stay home though, and to get a bun, so I agreed. He was so happy it made me happy too. We drove into town and he decided he wanted to sit in the stroller (a good move actually – it was so icy). We sat and ate our buns, and I drank my particularly good latte, and we were happy. Behind us was a mother with a newborn. Soon her friend arrived. Felix went to play with the toys. I went to play with him, and noticed her friend was heavily pregnant. Soon after that another woman with a newborn arrived. They seemed so happy. I could hear them nattering away about how their babies were sleeping and eating. All of a sudden, I couldn’t stop crying. Felix played. He looked at the babies, then found a baby doll in the cupboard. ‘Mummy hold this one’, he said.
After a while I told Felix it was time to go. We walked to the park but it was so icy we didn’t stay for long. The bright sun got in Felix’s eyes and the seagulls dipped and soared. We went to pharmacy in the shopping centre to replace some of Felix’s medication (we’d picked it up yesterday but it wasn’t in a toddler-friendly form). We went next door to Lindex and I bought Felix a cardigan with rainbow cuffs. By the time we got home I was feeling better. We took off our coats. ‘No winter’, Felix said, ‘No snow come down’. ‘It will be spring soon,’ I said, ‘and all the snow will melt’. Felix entertained himself beautifully while I did the dishes and heated some soup. I thought about the modules I will be responsible for teaching in the autumn, and had a good idea about a text to include. We ate our soup at the table. ‘Light on!’ he said. ‘Light on in the kitchen!’ ‘We don’t need the light on in the kitchen. But look – we have a candle! The candle means we can sit at the table together and enjoy each other’s company.’ Felix looked at the candle and then at me, and gave me the most beautiful smile in the world.
I’m kicking myself for not packing my camera this morning, though I had two exams, so I guess I had other things on my mind. But my Norwegian exams were held in Gamlebyen, which is pretty at the worst of times, but a winter sunrise while the world is covered in fresh snow is something else altogether. It really is so lovely here. The clouds were dissolving as the sun came up, the sky a warm yellow behind the paper cut-out trees.
The tests went as well as they could have, I guess. The spoken test was fine and quite fun, really. The written test was split into listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and writing production. It’s the last section that I’m most unsure of – I guess it just depends how many little errors they let through. At this level they tell us it’s about communication more than perfection, so I should be ok. I’ll get the results in a month. These were level two tests, which are the end of the beginner’s level. I can’t wait till I’ve learnt enough to come back for the intermediate ones!
Looking at my schedule I thought – oh, good, I’ll have just enough time after the exam to go to a coffee shop and work on some teaching preparation before picking up Felix. And I may take out my books in a minute. But right now it’s so nice just to sit for a moment, amid the increasingly comprehensible conversations going on at tables around me.
You’ll learn a language just to be able to eavesdrop in cafes? A friend asked me while I was in Australia. There are other reasons, but, well, yes, actually. It’s very alienating not to understand the words spoken by strangers.
Teaching last week was wonderful, by the way. We spoke about sonnets, and my students were lovely, and it made me remember that there’s not too many things I would rather do than talk about poems.
We had such a lovely day today. We met Mala (and parents) at a beautiful beach in the morning. Felix spent a long time building a wall. Mala helped, and fetched water, and danced about, and sat on the wall and dived over it, but Felix’s concentration could not be broken!
Then we all went out for lunch and reminisced about eating pizza in Berlin all that time ago. We stayed out way past Felix’s nap time and it didn’t matter at all. He and Mala held hands and practiced their jumping, and Mala let Felix drink her babycino as well as his own and it was just the loveliest day.
We’ve left behind snow and winter coats and landed in Australia. Felix is having a ball hanging out with my parents and brother, visiting my grandparents and exploring the neighbourhood, but possibly his favourite thing so far is the duck pond.
He finds the ducks chomping up the bits of bread he throws them utterly hilarious.
I finally finished another jumper for Felix, the aptly-named ‘troublemaker sweater‘. I worked on in all autumn, while the leaves on the birch trees turned exactly that yellow, and then fell away, one by one. Now all the leaves have gone. It is November and November is grim. Maybe the yellow jumper will brighten our days a little. It is huge; it will fit him next winter, too. I love it: it is knit in alpaca and is super-soft, super-stretchy, super-warm. I am particularly pleased with the casting-off around the neck – I had to unpick my first attempt as there was no way it would fit over his head, but now that I have mastered the surprisingly stretchy bind-off, it would probably fit over mine! Felix is a creature of habit and did not want to try it on. ‘Green!’ he begged, ‘green!’ (He wears his green jumper every day.) I hope he’ll get used to it soon.
Standing at the top of our drive after taking out the rubbish, glimpsing the newly bare tree branches against the deep deep blue of an almost winter twilight.
Felix sliding down the playground slide on his tummy again and again, wearing his brand new bright green winter suit, his little fingers pink with cold: ‘knees! one, two, three, wheeee!’
Felix loves the fountain. He tries to climb in. Failing that, he sits on the edge. He throws leaves in and fishes them out. He walks around the side of it, holding our hands.
Michael took these photos last Saturday, and already today I saw council workers getting ready to board up the fountain for the winter.
There are quite a few photos here but I want them all: I love the light and the water and the leaves and Felix’s concentration.
Felix is taking his second autumn in his stride, even if he will not leave his hat on.
He seems such a long way from this little guy, even if I recognize the cheeky grin.
We all miss my parents now they’ve got on a big plane and now appear to live inside a computer. But we’ve been consoling ourselves with scones and soup and friends and banana cake and scarfs and hand-knitted jumpers and walks among the yellow leaves. I think we’ll be ok.
Today we took Felix out to the food and wooden boat festival down at the harbour.
The weather was perfect for fluttering flags.
There were plenty of other food options, but Michael had to take a photo of the ubiquitous caravan selling hotdogs.
We went for fish soup. Felix insisted on feeding himself whilst sitting on my lap. The results were … interesting. Here he is tucking into passionfruit panna cotta for dessert.
It was fun to get out and see other families enjoying the first day of the summer holidays.
When the sun does shine, however, you soak it up. Michael spent a fair amount of time in the garden a couple of weeks back chasing bees.
The angelic bees stick to the treetops but in the undergrowth the monsters lurk.