Sixteen months: brought to you by balls, bubbles, puddles

In a couple of days, my darling, you will turn sixteen months old. You amaze us every day. You make us laugh. A couple of times this week you stretched your normal 6am wakeup to 4.30 am, which we weren’t exactly thrilled about, but as you smiled at us sweetly, your father had to ask ‘could you be any cuter?’ You took your first steps over a month ago but it has only been in the past couple of days that you’ve been comfortable just walking around everywhere without having to think about it too much. I think it’s made you much more relaxed in general. Today you were running in circles around your father in the kitchen, giggling.

Your latest words are ‘shut’, and ‘keys’. You are quite frustrated when doors are shut, but at least you have a word for it now. You are pretty much obsessed by songs with actions, and there are several we watch together on youtube every day, in addition to songs that go with your boardbooks, songs you learn in barnehage, and songs we sing in the car and in the bath. Some of your favourites right now are ‘Down at the station’, ‘Insy Wincy Spider’, and a very silly one on youtube called ‘Uh-huh’ (actually you really like all the youtube clips from Super Simple Songs). You adore your books and have taken to toddling off to pick the one you want to read next and bringing it back to me. Your favourites at the moment are any with flaps to lift, and any about trains. You love pointing out animals and practicing your animal sounds.

This weekend your parents were a bit grumpy and tired, but together we turned it all around. As it was raining today and we couldn’t think of anything else to do, we went across to the big shopping centre in Sweden again. Your father bought you hundreds of balls. When you discovered them after your nap, you couldn’t believe it. ‘Ba! ba!’ you said, tottering over to them and plonking yourself in.

Later I made us a cake. I turned 33 this week and took two of these cakes to work on my birthday, but I decided we needed one all to ourselves. It turns out a family of three can demolish a sponge roll in one sitting, even if one family member is less than a meter tall. (It’s also probably time a sponge roll featured on my blog again. Our new oven is better for baking than our old one. I’m always tempted to try out variations such as chocolate and raspberries, but I will record here for posterity that you cannot beat a sponge roll with strawberries and cream.) You insisted on eating your piece with a spoon. Mermos was also impressed and snuck in through the kitchen window to lick up the cream.

Just before your bedtime, the sun finally came out, so we headed into the garden. You ran around the trampoline for a while and had a poke in the sandpit, but got frustrated trying to walk on the lawn in your gumboots so I took you over to the driveway. Oh my. We have the best puddles. The cats couldn’t quite work out why you wanted to stand in the middle of them.

I remember a card my Mum had sent me half way through my pregnancy, with a photo of a little boy toddling down a lane. And it’s hard to say exactly what I felt, except that it was somehow momentous, seeing you stamp around your very first chain of perfect puddles, and pick yourself up when you fell.

A long weekend

We’re at the tail-end of a beautiful long weekend. Today the week-long heat-wave has slowly evaporated, but we certainly made the most of it, and spent plenty of time eating, playing and bathing outside with some excellent friends.

It was so lovely to have some time off with not only good weather, but a Felix healthy enough to enjoy it properly. Here he is galloping around the trampoline.

 
Today we bought a new oven. I am in love. Excuse me while I wax lyrical. We needed a new one because our old one was too small for our kitchen – both too narrow for the spot and too low for the bench. The new one fits perfectly and has induction hot-plates which are an utter revelation to me. So much better than our old ordinary electric ones – my heavy frying pan heated up in an instant, rather than ten minutes, and I managed to saute the mushrooms perfectly without burning the garlic. Not to mention the fact that food doesn’t fall down the side of the oven any more and the handles of the saucepans don’t bump into the bench-top.

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a novel-reading binge. If I open my novel the minute Felix falls asleep, I can recreate the illusion of being able to lose myself in a book for hours and hours. It’s been quite nice. I read the last two books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy. It had taken me about six months to get into The Girl Who Played with Fire, as the first sixty pages or so annoyed me no end. But once I got past them I actually got hooked and enjoyed them immensely. The story and the characters are larger than life but in the end I found them very likable.

From there I jumped headlong into We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver…

But now this blog post has to stop because my early morning is catching up with me and I need to go to bed. I’ll tell you what I thought about it later.

Six months

Well, my dear sweet boy, it seems tonight you have forgotten how to sleep (or, more precisely, sleep without me by your side), which means composing this post is taking longer than I had anticipated. We do however persist in lugging you all over the country, so it’s perfectly understandable if it takes you a couple of days to get back to normal. I’ve left you snoozing in my bed, which you’ve made abundantly clear is more palatable than your crib this evening. It is your half-birthday, after all.

You were weighed and measured two weeks ago, and you are a very tall and healthy guy. You were 8.4 kilos and 71cm, which puts you at the 99th percentile for height and 78th percentile for weight, and means you’ve grown on average three centimetres a month! At six months, you love water bottles, paper cups, and, most of all, plastic cups with icy drinks inside.

You also love cameras, the TV remote, and our computers. You would quite like to eat them all. You will also happily gnaw away on a stick of sweet potato or a pizza crust. You are not so keen on any form of goo.

You really are a charming little fellow, and whenever we are out and about (which is often, as you insist upon it), you are constantly scanning the environment for new people to entrance. When we were out at a pizza restaurant in Boise, the waitress was trying to tell us the specials, but you kept interrupting with your own monologue: ‘aha! aha! aha!’ You looked very pleased with yourself and had the rest of us in stitches.

Your hair is getting fairer and thicker. Your eyes are going greyish in the middle – I don’t know if they’ll end up grey-green like mine or grey-blue like you father’s. You are learning to sit up and can manage it for a couple of seconds at a time. You’ve discovered you can rest your feet on the tray on your stroller.

You are very clear about what you want, and if we suggest you might like to chew on one of your toys instead of the TV remote, for example, you are not easily convinced. You have also just worked out that if you throw something on the floor we will pick it up for you. You think this highly entertaining.

You love your baths. You especially want to eat the flannel. You look for it as soon as we get in. I do not encourage this. You love getting dried off after your baths by your father. He’s invented a game where he drops a little towel on top of your face, saying ‘where’s my baby?’ and you pull it off and you laugh at each other.

You are still a snuggly little guy. When you are tired you cling to my shoulders and bury your face in my neck.

Today we walked with you along the river, hung out with you in the coffee shop, and played with trains for the first time in the Barnes and Noble. We didn’t buy you a train yet but we bought you some farm animals to play with in the bath. We celebrated with cupcakes after you went to bed (six months is quite an achievement for us, too).

You are the sweetest and funniest person we know. You’ve changed everything. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Books and places

I’ve just started reading Hilary Mantel’s Experiment in Love, and it’s making me nostalgic for England:

In summer, when I was a small girl, we would take a bus to the outskirts of town, and walk in the hills, rambling along the bridle paths in clear green air. We were above the line of the mill chimneys; like angels, we skimmed their frail tops (p. 11).

Of course, I was nostalgic for England even before I ever visited there (not counting being born there), having grown up with tales of the old country from my father and my Nanna. Now, however, the nostalgia is my own – for that wonderful first year in York which I had set aside for adventure, and the wonderful years after that, enjoying the town and the countryside with Michael. Ah, England in summer, with thick green grass, and little stone walls…

Incidentally I think I am developing a crush on Hilary Mantel (after loving Wolf Hall last year) and intend to read every one of her novels…

Last night I finished Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which impressed and intrigued me. Its communistic leanings are especially fascinating given the intense anti-communist, individualist sentiments here that I am only now beginning to get a feel for. I had no idea that if you earned more money here you don’t get into a higher tax bracket, for example. Back to the novel, however… I really enjoyed his descriptions of landscape and animals – especially the animals – and I liked his characters so much that when I got half way through I didn’t want to keep reading for fear of bad things happening to them. Towards the end, though, the characters seemed to become more symbolic, and you got the sense he was really laboring to make his point. (Almost like the didactic sections of War and Peace.) Still, I enjoyed it greatly and am keen to read East of Eden at some point. The last paragraph really took me by surprise – extreme breastfeeding, anyone?

In non-book related news, I am really enjoying life here at the moment. Felix’s night-time sleeping has deteriorated badly, so I’ve been quite tired, but am feeling much more zen about it just now. There is a really fantastic mother’s group which meets up several times a week in different places, and I’ve been enjoying getting to know a bunch of really interesting women and their children. If I want the car for the day I need to drop Michael at work in the morning, but he works only five minutes away from the downtown river walk, so my new routine is to drop him off and then park at the river for a walk before the day heats up too much. Felix naps, breastfeeds with a view of the waterfalls, and often has a roll around on his blanket on the grass afterwards. When we’re at home my main task at the moment is flipping him onto his back – he rolls onto his tummy, has a look around, gets stuck, then complains loudly. Repeat. Though today at the river he did manage to roll back the other way twice, with a bit of help from the slope of the ground.

Most excitingly, my parents are on their way over here and should arrive tomorrow night. I can’t wait!

Speaking of reading, here is Felix having a go at the Sunday paper, aged 20 weeks:

It’s my time

Thanks for the birthday wishes, folks! Michael has devised a play-list for my birthday, which pretty much consists of this stunning UK Eurovision number, plus ‘Can you feel the love tonight‘ from the Lion King. He tells me he won’t stop playing ‘My Time’ on repeat until I put it on my blog and inflict it on the rest of you… (The pink, for some reason, is also a requirement. Probably because it matches the pink champagne he brought back from Paris…)

Fairytale

We managed to catch the Eurovision semi-final on TV in the hotel in Switzerland the other night. Norway is in tonight’s semi-final so we didn’t see it, but everyone’s pretty sure they’ll get through, and we plan to impose on someone who owns a TV on Saturday night. How cool are the dancers? My absolute favourite, however, is Portugal. The song is beautiful, her voice is something else, all the musicians are so sweet, and the technicolour landscape is just fabulous. I was planning on being an honorary English citizen on Saturday, but their song is wretched, so I think I’m going with Portugal. Which would you vote for out of these two?

More chimneys, and a happy song

I took this photo on Tuesday, from the same bridge as the last one, but looking the other way. Below is the chimney of our very own paper factory in Halden, glowing in the weird evening light. I got here on Wednesday, and am puffing away at the chapters… If by any chance you need cheering up, you might like to take a look at this gem, discovered by M. It is by an alternative German musician whose name was channeled to him by an angel. M says it is to be enjoyed in an ironic manner. Which does not preclude dancing and singing. A rough translation: ‘every cell in my body is happy’, followed by variations of the same.

The Caravan of Love

Here is a wonderful construction created by the very clever Michael. To view it, click play, but then click pause and wait till it’s fully loaded (when the red line is all the way across). This could take a few minutes, but it might be very fast. Then you can press play. If you don’t do this it will stop and start and not come out properly. And it’s so lovely!