Happy Halloween!

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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. halloween3

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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.

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The last day of September

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Then we wandered around the harbour before meeting up with friends in the afternoon.

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The clouds and sun were all silky in the water.

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Antonia’s autumn

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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.

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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.

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Snapshots of a week

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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.

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It has been rainy and the light on the wet leaves made me think of this poem by Clive James.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunday Afternoon

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Autumn walk

awalkI 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.

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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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November

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.

Friday Evening

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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.

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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.

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It was exactly what we needed.

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Sunday Week

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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.

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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.

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But there are compensations. When I asked Felix was his favourite part of the day was, he said the puddle.

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Sunday morning

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.

Yellow

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.

Two moments

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!’

Water, fire

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.

The end of September

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.

Our last trip to Salt Lake City

We couldn’t help but come down here one last time. We may come back one day, but it won’t be for a while. When we were here in May, the snow hadn’t yet melted on the tops of the mountains, and just now it’s begun falling again.

The mountains are covered lightly, so you can still see their textured skin, and the autumn leaves look like frosted glass.

Felix looks like a very big, very warm teddy bear.

More thoughts on Halloween

I was thinking on the weekend that Halloween is great because it’s so different from Christmas and Easter. It’s not about the nuclear family. It’s wild and irreverent. In the middle of winter it feels right to come together quietly and light candles and dream about the return of the light, but this is such a fitting way to mark this particular change in season – a crazy party before it all falls down. A much more urgent affair when you know the winter will be long and harsh. This is something I could barely imagine when I lived in Australia, when autumn always came as such a relief.

Over here is an interview with the wonderful Jeffrey Jerome Cohen about Halloween and monsters. He says:

I really enjoy Halloween, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s not as if I dress up as a monster—actually I don’t, I almost never do. But there’s something about Halloween that’s just celebratory and fun.

The only thing that I’ll say has changed about Halloween for me, as I’ve gotten a little bit older, is it does strike me that—despite all of the fun that happens—Halloween is really also a brooding on our own mortality and that it’s got a deeply sad component to it.

Part of it is trying to overcome a fear of death by having celebration in the face of death. But it’s also an acknowledgement that death is a part of our lives and we don’t get this on any other day. Our contemporary lives are so lived in denial of our own mortality that it’s the one day that it’s actually out there.

Which is true. But for us, this year, it was just a great excuse to dress Felix up as a pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

So far we’ve been loving the build-up to Halloween. We went for a walk this morning around one of the older neighbourhoods here in Idaho Falls so Michael could take some pictures of the decorations.

It is really quite lovely having such a popular celebration of Autumn – it feels like a good thing to do (and it postpones the encroachment of Christmas paraphernalia!). Halloween doesn’t really work in Australia because it is utterly the wrong season.

I don’t get into the really scary stuff, but it is nice to have markers of harvest and the encroaching shadows. The bakery has been flogging its choc-chip pumpkin bread lately, and I must admit I have become a bit of an addict.

Everyone is going completely nuts for candy. In the Walmart there’s a huge aisle devoted to combo pack bags of sweets and chocolate bars, just for Halloween. Michael was there the other night and he says there’s a worker employed full time just to re-stack it, as customers crowd around it like honey bees.

Last night I took Felix to ‘Boo at the Zoo’. The Zoo has special late night opening hours for three nights, and is completely decked out in Halloween decorations. Local businesses are running little stalls handing out candy for trick or treating, and the zoo is utterly over-run with mini pirates and lions and spider-men and witches and ghosts and princesses and strawberries pointing at the animals and lining up for candy.

I’m not sure what the zoo’s regular inhabitants made of it all. Taking Felix in the stroller was the wrong move, as there were so many people we could barely get through the crowds. The turtle’s enclosure was taken over by pumpkins, and the penguin cove was decked out with a pirate theme.

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More Autumn

It’s hard not to feel a little melancholy in Autumn. Not that you’d know it from these photos, that Michael took last weekend in Salt Lake City. That day was just beautiful – perfectly mild and almost still, with a hint of cool when a breeze brushed your cheek, and a gentle warmth on your skin from the sun. (Sorry about all those adjectives.)

This week in Idaho Falls it has been much much colder – there has been frost most mornings – but it has been blue and bright every day, and the air is utterly clear. It’s very dry. Everything is charged with static. At night when I snuggle into bed my duvet lights up with dozens of sparks, like a mini lightening storm.

A couple of days ago the tree outside our apartment had the perfect ratio of yellow leaves on its branches and heaped in a bright ring at its feet. I recalled the many summer evenings I’d sat out there with Felix. One day, walking back from the park, I passed two girls raking leaves in their front yard. ‘We’re making a leaf pile’, the smaller one told me. ‘And then we’re going to jump in it!’

Sunshine

Just so much warm beautiful shiny sun. Because of the altitude, the sun is quite fierce here – even when the temperature drops a little, in the sun it’s hot. I’m just loving these slightly milder fall days. This feels like the first real summer I’ve had since leaving Australia eight years ago. Apparently the fall can be fickle here – winter can hit with a bang at the beginning of October. But last year it was long and mild, and it looks like this year will be the same.

This morning I went for a walk along the river with the mother’s group. There was about eight of us, all with strollers (several with double strollers!). We stopped at the park half way along for the kids to play. One of the little one and a half year old girls has taken a shine to Felix – she keeps coming up to him and saying his name. He loves it. He is such a social creature. And talking to the other mothers is just so great. It’s such a brilliant group.

Felix prompts conversations wherever we go. He flirts with everyone. This morning an old lady stopped to say hello in town, and then she spotted us again in the bookshop this afternoon. Felix stared and stared at the man setting up his computer at the table next to us, until he relented and started showing us pictures of his family. Felix’s favourite regular acquaintance is one of the barristas in Barnes and Noble. (She loves him too.) He looks forward to seeing her so much that as soon as we stand in line to order drinks he grins and jiggles his legs in anticipation.

I’ve had a madly busy week trying to put the final edits into an article, in between caring for the little guy. The days have been pretty exhausting. But it’s done now. And the sun just shines and shines.