Julius is very nearly five months old and I am just soaking in having a little baby still, who needs to be carried everywhere and can’t sit up by himself, because it’s not going to last for long. He’s only rolled over completely once in each direction, but he’s very proficient at rolling to his side and twisting around. He is still such a cuddly, friendly, agreeable little thing. Everyone keeps saying how big he’s getting and I suppose they’re right, but he’s still my little baby. He spends time every day strapped to my chest, and often has a nap there, and just adores it.
Felix is thriving at school and Antonia is happy in barnehage, though I can always tell when she’s getting a little tired because the noise levels increase considerably! It’s Saturday today and I had two pregnant friends over for lunch, and we went to a Halloween party with some of the kids’ barnehage friends this evening, and it was a nice day but we were all absolutely shattered by the end of it. I made quiche for the first time in my life (cheated and bought pre-made pastry) and it was delicious. The kids did a lot of watercolour painting on paper bags.
Michael has been away a fair bit. When I have to put all three of them to bed, Julius listens to Antonia’s stories, and I kiss Antonia and leave the room and she falls asleep within a minute, then he listens to Felix’s book chapter, then I feed him to sleep next to Felix in my big bed. It doesn’t work to put him to sleep before the big kids. He’s a pretty patient listener already!
I’ve been taking too many pictures on my phone and just posting them to facebook, I’ll try to get a few more over here soon.
First day of school, first day in the big class in barnehage. Very excited munchkins.
Wow. Those summer holidays went by in a flash. Six weeks in the company of these gorgeous, challenging munchkins. I must admit I was (rightfully) a little apprehensive, but there have been a lot of fun moments, and I’ve enjoyed having my parents along for most of it. Highlights included Astrid Lingren’s World, in Sweden, pictured above. Felix loved the castles and Antonia loved meeting Pippi and exploring all the little houses.
Spending so much time together had its challenges but sometimes they play together well which is sweet to see. Tomorrow Felix starts school, and this evening the two of them played at going to school together, taking their backpacks and lunch boxes onto the trampoline, and hanging up their umbrellas on the trampoline net. Felix even made a book for Antonia – stapling pages together with his new stapler, and filling them with robots and big letter As. He said to Mum that it would have to be a picture book, not a writing book, as he didn’t know how to write yet, and she said that would be fine. He’s quite motivated now to learn to read – I hope it goes smoothly for him.
To be honest, one of the most challenging aspects of the past couple of months has been the energy expended in encouraging sibling harmony. There has been competitiveness, some teasing, and rather a lot of noise. So I thought I’d better write this down as evidence that it can be different. This evening was challenging because Julius was waking ten minutes after I put him down each time and demanding to be settled again. At one point all three of them were screaming while I hastily tried to hang out some washing. Felix had asked me to make him a paper plane and tie a string to it, and so Antonia wanted one too, and they both wanted theirs FIRST, and so it went on. But, after an ice-block procured by their father, a curious thing happened. I was preoccupied with Julius and Michael left them alone. Felix was digging around in the cupboards in the hallway to find his schoolbag, and also found his and Antonia’s pull along travelling cases. And they started to play a most marvellous game together, packing their bags, going to the airport, getting in the aeroplane, and visiting ‘Grandma’s house’. They bent the rules somewhat by pretending our car was the aeroplane, and the episode ended in tears when Antonia accidentally turned the radio on full volume and panicked, but all the same! There was no fighting, teasing or competition, just encouragement, connection and joint imagination. ‘Wait for me, Feli!’ I heard Antonia say at one point. ‘I am I am’, he assured her. And a few minutes later I heard, ‘I’m waiting for you, Feli!’
The camaraderie continued for the rest of the evening, as they decided together which book we should read (Tashi, one book they both love). They didn’t want to have a shower but I managed to steer them in there by saying – ‘you guys are getting along so well this evening, would you like to have a shower together?’ And they did. And they lay quietly to listen to Tashi, Antonia on the bottom of their new bunk bed, and Felix on the top, as I read and fed Julius to sleep for the umpteenth time. Felix kissed Julius and me goodnight, and as he left (to listen to Michael read Harry Potter before he went to sleep) I said – do you have a kiss for Antonia too? He hesitated, and tried to get away with blowing her a kiss, but I encouraged him a bit more and he planted a kiss on her leg.
I’m so proud of my biggest ones. In the weeks (days, in fact) since Julius came home, Antonia has toilet trained herself (it just clicked for her, all of a sudden), and Felix has lost his third tooth, graduated from barnehage, and achieved his 25 meter backstroke and freestyle badge in swimming. The day Julius was born one of Antonia’s carers made her a ‘big sister’ medallion, and she was so proud!
She simultaneously got rather fond of the pretend pacifier that came in a bag of doll-baby stuff I gave her as a present, and for a few days spoke an odd mixture of English, Norwegian and baby talk, so sometimes she likes to be a baby too, which is understandable. But she is suddenly so much stronger and more coordinated – and can managed complicated climbing feats and hop on the trampoline like a big kid, not a toddler.
They both adore the little one, showering him with kisses and smothering him with hugs. Felix says he’s the best baby in the world, he’s just so cute!
We took these last two pictures at Felix’s ‘graduation’ evening at barnehage. They had a bbq down by a lovely lake and it was very special. He has two weeks left now, then summer holidays, then school. Antonia starts in the big kid class in barnehage after the summer holidays, so there are changes ahead for everyone.
I’m looking out at the red sunset over the fjord. I meant to go to bed early but suddenly it’s 11 already. Baby J will wake soon, I guess, you never know, and demand some milk. With his arrival it feels like so much is shifting. Sometimes I feel I’m floundering around with little to hold on to, but right now, looking out upon the water, it feels like our house is a big ship, travelling in the right direction, and I’m sailing.
My Mum is here and she is so amazing. It’s meant these past two and a half weeks have been so much smoother than they would have been without her. For the first ten days I did not feel up to much, and did not leave the house or get out of my pyjamas. And then suddenly I felt better, so I have been trialling things. Laundry. Cooking dinner. Picking the kids up from barnehage. I’ve only done that last one once, on Friday last week, and Mum was with me.
We’d just been grocery shopping with Julius. He seemed quite happy so I thought it would be ok, and was looking forward to introducing him to Antonia’s carers. But as soon as we arrived, he started fussing, so I had to take him out of the pram. I carried him into Antonia’s class, and all the little kids rushed to have a look at him, and her carer cooed – oh, she looks like Antonia! But he was crying and wanted milk, so we went out to the hallway, where I perched next to Antonia’s spot, breastfeeding. Meanwhile my Mum had rounded up Felix, who had been around the back outside. He was edgy and tired and wanted to leave immediately. Mum started gathering up some of Antonia’s stuff that I wanted to take home. Then Antonia needed the toilet, so I handed Julius, who started fussing again immediately, to Mum, and went with Antonia back inside. When we came out to the hallway again Felix was complaining loudly about us taking so long. He’d knocked over the neat pile of Antonia’s stuff that Mum had made on the ground. I found a bag to put it all in, and in my enthusiasm accidentally stuffed in another kid’s shoes. (They were the same design as Antonia’s previous pair, and her current pair had been left at home as she’d peed on them yesterday by mistake.) Finally we were ready to leave, and Felix started wailing about how he never got to sit next to Julius in the car, and it wasn’t fair, and I had to threaten to take away the ipad for the evening in order to get him in the car. He then started begging for sweeties, and instead I promised them both an iceblock for when we got home (it was hot). So, yeah. If Mum hadn’t been there to hold the squalling baby it would have been even less pretty.
Today we went the birthday party of a friend of Felix, the son of one of my closest friends. It was at a play-centre a forty minute drive away, and I was quite pleased with myself that I had managed to arrive (I thought) exactly on time. Michael reminded us to take the presents with us (I’d forgotten them when we went to a different kids’ party the week before, and had had to turn around to pick them up). But I had remembered the times wrong and we were AN HOUR LATE! It all turned out ok and Felix was in time for cake and my friends were understanding, but I felt so silly. For a moment I felt like bursting into tears but thankfully I didn’t.
So. Stormy waters now and then. But sailing.
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.
I guess it’s time to say (or well past the time to say, but never mind) that there will be another little munchkin around here in less than three months. I’m 29 weeks, and the little one is prodding at the computer on my lap as I write. It feels exciting but a little unreal. What is not unreal is the fact that bending over, putting on shoes, and picking things up from the floor are all becoming a lot more challenging.
Things that happened today that make me smile when I think back on them:
- after some reluctance and a heartfelt explanation from myself about the difficulties of tidying up on my own, the kids very sweetly and whole-heartedly got involved. They even did a team job of wiping down the stairs!
- it’s very sweet the way they can co-operate and work together at times – Felix explains patiently what to do, and Antonia says ‘ok!’ and complies (they do wind each other up at other times, of course)
- Felix had a very cute moment with my friend’s one year old – passing him a glow-worm doll to play with, and patting him gently on the back
- Felix hacking into parsnips and carrots with hair-raising enthusiasm, and passing them to Antonia to put in the pot for the soup
- Antonia gleefully dipping her asparagus and cucumber sticks into her soft boiled egg at dinner time
- Antonia deciding that Felix could play with her wooden rocket after all, once she understood how sad he was about it. She’s quite good at this – you just have to talk to her about how people are feeling and give her a minute to process it
- Felix managing to swim backstroke (slowly and hesitantly) in a straight line at his swimming lesson for the first time
- Felix managing to swim freestyle across the pool without stopping to take a breath (the instructor had asked them to go as far as they could, and then breathe if they needed, and he decided that he just had to make it all the way. He loves diving under the water so he’s had a bit of practice. It was the fastest I’ve seen him swim. Normally when he swims freestyle he takes far too many breaths which slow him right down. The instructor wasn’t watching properly and I don’t think she believed him when he said he made it the entire way across, but he did – you should have seen him puffing when he finally came up for air.)
- reading Pippi Longstocking to both kids before bed. They liked it a bit too much and Felix decided that when I told him to got to sleep, he would, like Pippi, put his feet on the pillow and his head under the covers
- Antonia cuddling up in bed with the pink hobbyhorse she only decided yesterday that she liked. She kept getting distressed if the horse’s pole wasn’t tucked in properly!
And not related directly to the two of them:
- the soup itself (yum)
- the snow swirling all day outside our windows (it was definitely an *inside* snow day – so windy!)
- hanging out with my friends
- reading for an hour after the kids fell asleep at 8
All that talk of books to read to Felix got me thinking about what I was reading – I hadn’t been able to find anything that was quite right. Then I found Elizabeth Strout’s latest – My Name is Lucy Barton – in our college library, and I just adored it. I’ve just finished Amy and Isabelle on my kindle, and I’m grateful that I think there are another three novels of hers I have yet to read. (I read Olive Kitteridge a few years ago on the urging of a friend, and loved it, but hadn’t tried any of her others till last week.) If any of you know of anything else I might get into – let me know!
The other thing I want to note down is that last weekend Antonia started drawing figures! Faces with arms and legs! She draws them over and over again, and today drew some dinner for them too, and a house. So far she’s been drawing with her left hand.
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.
The last afternoon playing in our old house. Felix was very nostalgic about the big tree and took lots of photos of it.
One of those Sunday mornings where everything goes right. We made an apple cake early in the morning and Felix insisted on peeling and coring the apples himself. Antonia helped me make the cake batter and put the apple pieces on. Then my dear friend came over with her two children, and the apple cake and cream went down a treat, and then somehow we ended up with play-doh and matchsticks out and the kids played happily for ages.
Saturday was nice too – we played in the park for hours and hours, and had lunch in the cafe across the street. We kept bumping into people we knew. Felix had an icecream with his best friend while Antonia napped in her stroller, and when she woke up she was ready for action once again.
Just for fun here’s Felix, just a little younger than Antonia is now, riding the same horse. (From this post from July 2012.)
Feeling tired, but good-tired, after a weekend packed with friends and kids riding bikes. We even did some work in our yard this morning. We often lament the fact that we haven’t done outdoor work, so decided it was time to stop lamenting and just all go outside together and have a go. It was nice.
It’s not exactly warm yet but it is light well into the evening, and a lot more pleasant outside than it was last month.
The kids were absolutely gorgeous last night, climbing up onto the armchair together and spontaneously reading a book.
And they’re both loving their bikes. We got Antonia a balance bike at Easter in Germany and spent quite a lot of time waddling after her giving her little pushes and stopping her falling over. Very hard on our backs. But now she’s able to walk it along by herself. She doesn’t glide along yet but it’s a start! She insisted on ‘riding’ it nearly all the way to the park from the carpark at Michael’s work today. She wanted to ride it back, too, afterwards, and was very sad when I had to trap her in the stroller as we didn’t have time…
Not a week I’m in a hurry to repeat, coloured by upsetting news from far away, ferocious colds and slushy snow. We’ve all had colds but Antonia and I have been the worst hit. Managed to take the kids out to the cafe yesterday which was the highlight of Felix’s day. He drew two Thomas the tank engines, complete with smiley faces and yellow number 1s, and a more abstract looking drawing which he said represented a ladder falling apart. I didn’t get time to aim for better photos as they both wanted to commandeer the camera. Felix took the one below of me drawing a ‘wow wow’ for Antonia. Looking at the photos on the camera, Antonia pointed out ‘Tonya’ and ‘Bebix’ for the first time. I was so proud.
Felix: making echoes.
Antonia: very pleased with our matching hats, as we wander around the roof of the Opera house in Oslo. It’s very cool and looks a bit like an iceberg.
I took these photos on Tuesday, when we arrived back in Oslo from a mini-cruise to Copenhagen. Our friends invited us to come with them, and it was so much fun! We slept on the ferry on Sunday and Monday nights, and had a day in Copenhagen on Monday. Copenhagen was lovely. I think my family was most enamoured with the lego shop. Michael got a Dr Who Tardis set, Felix got a Jurassic World dinosaur, and Antonia got a duplo whale and an igloo. These were cute enough to get past my no-more-duplo-in-the-house-we-have-nowhere-to-put-it rule.
This week the sun has come back and today we went to the forest with some friends. I had promised Felix he could ride his new bike. When we got there I discovered the path was still basically pack ice with a light sprinkling of snow on top. Up and down two kilometres of hills. Too late to say no. Off he went. I am proud and relieved to say he was absolutely fine and only fell over three times and did not complain or break any limbs. I didn’t get any photos because I was trying not to slide down said hills while pushing Antonia in the stroller. It was quite invigorating but never again.
Here are some bonus photos of the two of them hitting the musical dance floor in the science museum in Copenhagen.
Spiderman and the snow princess. Getting ready for Carnival at barnehage. Sorry for the dreadful quality of the photos but it’s all I can manage at the moment. Felix adores his spiderman costume and Antonia even attempted a couple of twirls in her dress. It was her first day back at barnehage after nearly a week home with a fever.
The scene, 5pm: Felix happily copying numbers printed on a box, while I read a book to Antonia. You guys look happy, says Michael. I’m going upstairs for ten minutes.
Felix: Can I Watch?
Felix: But why? I haven’t Watched all day! I need to Watch!
Me: But I like to hang out with you and do things. It’s boring otherwise.
Felix: Can I paint my box?
Me (deep breath): ok.
I go to hunt for paints. I cut up plastic bags to put under the box so he won’t get paint all over the table. I find him a different top so he won’t ruin his nice white one. I find the paints. I find the paintbrushes. Antonia finds my old sunglasses and puts them on. Then she starts crying cos they fall off her nose.
Me: I’ll find you some other sunglasses, Antonia.
Felix: Not mine!!
He follows to make sure I don’t give his sunglasses to Antonia. I find Michael’s old sunglasses. She puts them on. She cries because they fall off her nose. I find a paper plate for Felix’s paint.
Me: What colour do you want?
Felix: What? (Antonia cries and cries.)
Me: What colour?
Felix: White. No. Blue.
I squirt out the blue paint and pick up Antonia, still screeching. He does one lack-luster brush of the box.
Felix: I don’t really want to paint.
I put his paper plate in the bin. I wash out the paintbrush.
Felix collapses on the sofa in tears.
Now Antonia wants to paint.
This evening my kids turned the coffee table upside down so that it became a dance floor, and then jived away on it. ‘Doo doo doo doo’ said Antonia, bouncing away, copying Felix.
Antonia: grinning, clambering over me. (I actually have a series of photos of that smile.)
Yesterday was a lot quieter than planned as we had to cancel hanging out with Felix’s best friend as Antonia was sick. Felix was sad. But he played with his sister, all the same. I love these two.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.
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.
My beautiful baby turned one on Sunday. My adorable, affectionate, adventurous Antonia. Felix was there to open her presents and eat her cake. It brought back memories of Felix’s first birthday. (That party was a little quieter, because of the lack of four year olds tearing around.) But Antonia’s was as lovely as could be. Here’s a photo from the archives, exactly one year earlier, the day Antonia was born:
Felix was shy of her, to start with, but wanted to give her her bear.
A year. A year with these two beautiful creatures. Antonia has started daycare now and it is hard to be apart, especially from her perspective. When I pick her up we hug and hug and she relaxes quickly, then demands to go scoot around on the bikes outside. She loves to stand on the platform on the back of a tricycle while Felix rides it around.
As ever, she wakes frequently at night to feed, and I stroke her hair and breathe her in. In the morning, I wake to her smile, her earnest wet kisses, her soft soft cheeks.
Felix wants to know when she will turn proper 1, when she will start to talk. He was a little surprised that she didn’t seem much different from the day before.
More from the archives. When Antonia was tiny, all she wanted was to snuggle in close.
Dear sweet Antonia, at exactly one year old you adore your family and we adore you. You love to be outside and bounce and zoom around, and you love to be on our laps reading books. You have kisses for all of us. You can mmmmmm like a cow, buzz like a bee, meow like a cat, and rah like a lion. When you don’t want something (food, a person) you wave it away fervently. When you do want something you point with great insistence and say eh eh! When I pick you up from barnehage you sing quietly to yourself, ‘mamamamama’. I am so very glad you’re here. We love you. We love you. We love you so.
And more pictures from her party. xxx
The sweetest, softest, cuddliest, funniest little girl is beginning barnehage next week. I’m excited about going back to work. But I don’t want to leave her. I don’t want her to cry. She’s going to cry.
I arrived to pick up Felix a bit early today and we played together in the playground with Antonia. Antonia climbed up onto the tray on the back of one of the tricycles, and stood there, holding on, so Felix jumped on and cycled her around, saying ‘look at my baby! It’s her first bike ride!’ It was the cutest thing ever. He cycled her around to the back of the barnehage and gave her a swing. Much higher than I would. She laughed and laughed. Yesterday I picked him up even earlier and they were still inside, so Felix showed Antonia one of the baby toys with little slides to roll balls down. She loves the barnehage. She’s going to be ok.
And today I met one of her new carers, and I already know the leader of her class because she had Felix for much of last year. So. I am cultivating calm. I want Antonia to know that I know she’s going to be alright there. I really wish the two of them were going to be together outside because it would be so nice for Antonia to see a familiar face, but from next week Felix will be in the big kids section and she’ll be in the baby section, which have separate buildings and playgrounds, so their paths will rarely cross.
Today was my last official day of maternity leave. Michael took Felix to barnehage in the morning. Antonia and I pottered around after breakfast. I folded half a load of washing before she demanded that I read books with her. So I read books with her. I trailed behind her as she climbed the stairs. We played in Felix’s room for a bit. I had a cup of tea and she squashed some strawberries. I fed her to sleep upstairs. My good friend dropped in on her last day of her holidays and we had a brief and lovely kid-free chat. Antonia woke up and cuddled with me for a good ten minutes, peeping cheekily over at my friend. I walked into town for an eye exam and Michael took Antonia to a cafe and a playground. I met them and gave her a feed in the park, looked for a new lunchbox for her but couldn’t decide, bought some broccoli for dinner and cucumber for her snacks, let her play in the playroom at the shopping centre for a bit, then went to pick up Felix. A simple day, a good day. There will be others.
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: asleep with his mouse and his London bus.
Antonia: swinging with my brother. Antonia is discerning with new people but she loved Jon immediately.
I spent this week in London with the kids while Michael was in America. We stayed in a hostel near Hyde Park and visited my brother and his girlfriend, went to six different playgrounds, five museums, and went on the underground, a London bus, taxis, an a boat on the Thames. And walked and walked and walked.
Okay it’s not really a secret path, it was only a secret from me, not being a particularly avid map reader. I am in fact a terrible map reader, to the great and recurring frustration of a certain nearest and dearest. But Michael got a book of family friendly walks for his birthday, and I am determined to use it. The first one starts a mere five minute walk from our door, and follows a hidden valley down into town, so we can end up in our favourite cafe. I had never noticed noticed the beginning of the footpath sneaking past a garden, although I have walked past it so many times. After initially being nervous that it would ‘take too long’, Felix thought ‘oh, come one’ (his words) and decided to join the adventure. We first walked it yesterday and got drenched by a sudden downpour half way down (part of the adventure, I assured Felix). We spotted the waterfall but couldn’t walk past it, as the path there was steep, narrow and muddy, and I had the stroller with me. Luckily there was a way out back to the main road at that point. Today we walked it again, taking Antonia in the ergo carrier instead. Felix was impressed the stream criss-crossed the path via a series of pipes. I couldn’t believe this was all just here, so close to the road we drive up and down daily. It felt a little bit like I’d stumbled through a fairy door to a magical forest. Which is romanticising things considerably, but, well, that’s me. We nearly didn’t take the steep muddy path after all (I had visions of one or other of us tumbling down the slope, and how was I to rescue Felix with Antonia strapped to my chest), but after Felix’s howl of disappointment I thought why not give it a go. It wasn’t as bad as it looked and the scary bit didn’t last for long. We were very proud of ourselves to come out the other side. I can’t wait to explore some more!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve written this post in my head so many times, but I’d better get something down before my dear munchkin is nine months! This month, dear girl, you have been on the move. You mastered crawling (and cut your two top teeth) the week we got back from Germany, so just before you turned eight months. And you have picked up speed ever since. You love doors, swinging them back and forth and then crawling through the doorway, especially the door between the hallway and the lounge. Right next to it is our wood oven, which is also very popular (we’re not lighting it at the moment) and you’ve even managed to open it a couple of times.
When you’ve had enough exploring you always crawl back to me, cling on to my legs, saying mmmmm mmmmmm mmmmm. When I pick you up you hug me tight, pulling my face towards you and sucking my cheek, or burying your head in my chest. It’s pretty fantastic.
It just about makes up for our (very) fragmented nights, when you need me so.
At exactly eight months, you weighed 11.65kg, and were 75.5cm.
You have just now, and eight and a half months, started actually swallowing a bit more food. Broccoli and strawberries are still popular, you’re getting good at eating fish, and you’re quite partial to a hot chip. (Not the best idea I know, better start avoiding that…) Plain yoghurt is one of your favourite things ever, and you also love cheese. When we all sit down to eat, you say quietly ‘nom nom nom!’ and it is truly adorable.
You and your brother are quite a team.
The last couple of days it’s been warm enough to play outside in the afternoon and evening and you have loved it – you giggle your head off if we bounce you on the trampoline, and you love to cruise the grass, sampling grass and twigs, looking for baby pinecones (which I promptly confiscate).
I feel so ridiculously lucky. I love you so.
I just love this photo Michael snapped of the three of us. Felix is showing me a triangular stone. We went back there today and he found a stone shaped like the tail of a plane. He insisted I actually look at it instead of just saying ‘hmmmm, that’s great’, and it really was!
We are in Germany at the moment and Oma and Opa have been soaking in their grandchildren.
Felix and Antonia: having the best time ever in a park in Germany this week. It was Antonia’s first proper swing. (Here’s a post about one of Felix’s first swings In those photos he’s a month older than Antonia is now). Felix insisted on pushing her high. She could not stop chuckling and Felix had a ball. They kept it up for ages. Just the sweetest things. These two adore each other. Tonight in the bath Antonia was laughing and laughing at Felix saying ‘monster!’ in a silly voice and splashing water around.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children every week in 2015. Bonus photos below.
It feels a little cheeky, having entirely skipped the winter, but I am marvelling at spring all the same. The bulbs in the park in town are piercing through the earth, nothing can stop them.
The buds of baby pine cones on our tree are barely visible, but they are there.
Felix picked handfuls of the old pinecones yesterday as we picnicked in the garden.
It was the first time we’ve got out there this year. Antonia slept.
Whitby came to join the party.
Felix was so pleased when Antonia woke up again, wearing his old red coat. I thought of all our other springs in this place. Baby Felix peering up at blossoms. Toddler Felix helping build the sandbox. Or playing with the pinecones. Three year old Felix cycling round the deck, thinking about the baby inside me, telling me he missed me before he was born. And now there is another spring, a new one, and I am glad.
Felix licks the spoon, Antonia has to content herself with the unused juicer.
I took these pictures on Tuesday in my Grandma’s kitchen. We turned up unannounced early Tuesday morning, and Grandma declared delightedly – ‘well, that sorts out my morning for me! I’m not going to the gym after all.’ We played on the lawn for a while while Granddad worked in the garden, and Felix made a duplo train track outside. Antonia had a short nap. Felix flicked through one of Grandma’s fancy cook-books, and asked ‘can we make these?’ ‘They look a bit too complicated’, said Grandma, ‘but we could make muffins.’
Felix carefully mashed the bananas and measured out the chocolate chips. He was entranced by the special drawers Grandma has for flour and sugar, just as I had been as a child.
When Antonia woke up, Grandma gave her some cups and things to play with, just has she had for Felix, three years ago.
As the muffins cooked, the pair of them capered about on the floor for a bit. One of the worst things about living in Norway is being so far away from here, but right now, for another week, we are soaking it in.
Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children each week in 2015.
And sometimes, when there is ten minutes free, I need to write. We have been here for lots of weeks now. The weather is sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, and often perfect. There have been moments of frustration. Two months is a long time to stay with your family or your in-laws. But lately we seem to have hit a groove. The best days involve aunties and children for Felix to play with. Or parks and grandmas. Or all of the above.
As I have mentioned Antonia is not one for sleeping in the evenings and is fussing right now. This is why it is nearly impossible to finish a paper I am attempting to work on – as soon as I sit down at my computer I need to get up again. I will wait a minute now before rushing to her…
Yesterday Mum had a day off work and we took the kids up to the farm barn in Hahndorf. Felix loved the baby rabbits and the kangaroos. I loved the baby goats with their miniature triangular faces and tiny bumps of horns. Antonia loved hanging out with me.
Today we met my cousin Hannah and her husband and my Aunty Anne (Hannah’s Mum) in a cafe next to a park.
A cuddle, a little chat, a feed, back to sleep.
While I feed Antonia to sleep I read Alice Munro stories on my kindle. I can’t get enough. Sometimes they cut too close to the bone. There are a lot of mothers abandoning children and children abandoning their mothers in her stories. And a lot of very sad love stories – disappointment, missed connections, illusions. But so many beautiful moments too. And a clarity like cut glass. I love how all the moments and details and observations are skilfully, not hurriedly, laid over one another, and it is not until you read the final paragraph, even the final line, that you discover exactly the shape they were leading to. And if you go back and re-read the opening of the story (I haven’t done this much yet, being so hungry for the next one), you can appreciate how deliberately the whole story has been quietly building all along.
The stories are about people. About people loving in tangled and imperfect ways, and coming up for air.
And I have been overloading the blog with photos lately but I feel the need to. Last time we were here, a year ago, I did not touch the blog – I was ill and exhausted with morning sickness, very nervous that my pregnancy would not work out, and on top of that had about a hundred exams to mark, which took up all my free time. But I miss the photographic record. I have gone back and put a couple of retrospective posts in, and may do a couple more. It is so nice, just for ourselves, to be able to click on a year or a month and look back on it.
And this time is so special. Watching my children play together – Felix still three years old but not for long, Antonia still my baby. They make each other laugh. They kick around on the mat or my bed together. Felix is so protective. He’s learning about numbers and adding up. In the car yesterday he said to me and Mum – ‘we have four in our family. Mummy, Daddy, Felix and Antonia. We are the luckiest, to have so many people.’ And he shared with us his extensive knowledge about babies: ‘babies’, he told us authoritatively, ‘are normally very soft’.
So there will be more photos heading your way. We are perhaps staying away from our home a little too long, but I am glad that there are couple of weeks left – to eat fish and chips in the park, watch Felix ride his bike, visit the aunties and the grandmas and some of my old friends, and go to the museum or the pool or the beach. Some days are tiring and jarring as happens with children. But I am so grateful for these days to slow down and be together. To come up for air.
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.
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.