Wednesday, 9 June 2010

You can't always get what you want..

Samuel 's latest thing is letting me know what he needs. Very loudly. As in, when we are in the supermarket, whizzing past the dairy section, he will say (shout) "I NEED cheese Mummy. I NEED it! I NEED it!"

As if we are not already a spectacle enough in the supermarket what with the English talking already causing a few people to glance in our direction, we now have the loud declaration of NEEDS. Oh, and the SINGING.

Something about sitting in the supermarket trolley inspires Samuel to break into song. Most recently, he gave a very beautiful rendition of Truly Scrumptious (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) to the rather baffled man standing in the queue behind us. He doesn't quite know all the words and gets a bit stuck on the line "Never, never, never , go away" - stuck as in broken record stuck, on the never, never bit.... for a long time.

And he likes to point out what language people are speaking. He is fascinated that there are Men! In the shops! Talking Danish mummy! Talking DANISH! Over There! I've tried to explain that the majority of people in Denmark are speaking Danish, but he doesn't get it and is still delighted to hear and loudly identify other people speaking this language when we are out and about.

I've resigned myself to entertaining the local shopping population, while Anna gets in some practice at teenager behaviour and pretends she doesn't know us.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Believe the advertising

Those of you following along will be happy to know that the Lollipop Lady Runner is no more! The warmer weather meant that it was necessary to retire her. I spent an hour in Sports Master trying on every black pair of running leggings in the entire shop. They all looked completely identical until I got them on.

After much huffing and puffing and absolutely no help from the indifferent staff, I ended up buying some 3/4 length running tights from scandinavian Casall ( - it won't let me link directly to the fancy picture). These leggings promise that the strategically placed seams will improve my performance.

Oh, how I laughed... until I found myself on my next run - kitted out in new gear from head to toe ( I admit that I went a little OTT and even bought myself special socks with L and R printed on them - all very high-tech stuff).

I'm not sure if it was the seams or the socks or due to the fact that I have been doing this running for a good 6 months now - but I ran the furthest I have ever run (maybe ever even counting cross-country running at school - not sure how far they made us run around soggy middle England in uncomfortable gym-knickers)... but certainly ever in my adult-exercising life. I ran 8 km. In 45 minutes. And I know this is small potatoes for the folks that happily do 10 km in the rain after a 10 km cycle ride first (Emma!!) but it was a bit of an achievement for me.

I might have to treat myself to some new trainers next. If mere seams can result in 8 km, imagine what new shoes will do.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cup of ambition

On Saturday, I attended a re-union party for a company that I used to work for. I talked to some people who last saw me as I waddled off on maternity leave for my first baby.

From which point you don't have to look very hard to find the reason(s) behind the subsequent patchy CV and awkward working hours. My career (and I really hesitate to call it that) hasn't exactly turned out how I expected. I think I fit into the "no regrets, but sometimes wonder if the right choices were made" category.

Right now I need to make my business work and it has been a bit too quiet recently. I initially sort of enjoyed the lull, but now I can feel the financial downside. Looking at the options, running my company does still seem to be the best way I can be home when I want to be for my children and still earn some reasonable money doing something I am good at and mostly enjoy.

So I need to drum up some new business and to "network" (shudder). The party invite came at just the right time.

The evening was kind of fun. But, stealing from Don Draper, I did feel that I was "at work disguised as a party". It was as much a business event as a social thing and I had to force myself to venture out of my comfort zone, which was sitting talking to the people I know quite well.

I wore my new dress and very high heels. My bag had lipstick and business cards in it. I drank two glasses of champagne early in the evening but did the rest of the evening sober. I'm really, really not a natural at these things, but I came home thinking it went fairly well - at least I don't think I made any terrible social gaffs and I managed to let people know my company was still very much alive. I tried to drop a few impressive names into the conversation, and implied to half a dozen potential new customer contacts that while I was always on the lookout for new business, and definitely had time for them, business was still ticking along nicely.

And when I went home, my bag was a few business cards lighter at least.

Well, perhaps I did something right. Today, I got a call from the Important Managing Director husband of someone I gave my card to. There was talk of interesting projects and possible money exchanging hands. All very positive and exciting. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The best bit was the bonus night in London

Like the timing of childbirth, toilet training, children's vegetable consumption and the weather, volcanic ash is just another thing I have to accept I do not have any control over.

On my journey back from England last week, I had to take an unexpected detour via London and Brussels due to the volcanic ash that closed Manchester airport. I had visions of being stuck for days as Britain got shut off from Europe again. It was all very expensive and anxiety producing. But several long phone calls, train journeys, a bonus night in London, and a quick visit to Belgium later and I was eventually home - 24 hours later than planned.

Apart from the quick re-visit with Nicki to borrow her sofa for the night, it was mainly just tiring and inconvenient. After a few very lovely days away from my children, I did just want to get home to them...although I knew they were perfectly fine without me. (Aksel, on the other hand, was very ready for me to be back, so I was perhaps missed a little bit.)

Some things:
- I read an entire book in 24 hours. I haven't been able to do this for years.
- I don't even come close to understanding Belgian French or Dutch and I felt very, very foreign in Brussels.
- I sometimes get mistaken for being Irish, I suppose because of my red hair. This happened while waiting to get a seat on Eurostar. I was assured there would be a seat, but I was not allocated one until everyone else (presumably those that booked way ahead of ash-induced-travel-necessity) was seated. There were three of us in this situation for carriage eight, myself and two men. One of the men, who happened to be from Dublin, started to make polite volcanic-travel-detour conversation with me. All fine, if not a bit of a struggle at 7am in the morning while wearing the same clothes as the day before. I was stressing a little over the news that Rotterdam and Amsterdam airports were now also closed and had this horrible sense of urgency to just get going. And I was looking forward to some coffee and sleep on the train.

Then the train manager guy calls us over and allocates us seats - the carriage is not full and it is not a problem he says. And, seeing as we are both Irish, he can even sit us together! Oh god. I try to say something like no no that is alright, really you don't have to. But then there we are, sitting next to one another. And I see that the Irish guy is quite pleased. And now I will have to chat politely to him for the next 2 hours. I really, really don't want to, but I can't see how I can change the situation without being really rude. (I didn't think that I could whisper quietly or discreetly enough to the train manager: Look, I'm not Irish, I don't know that guy, I don't want to talk to him, please let me sit elsewhere....) And, honestly, even if I was Irish, it doesn't mean I want to chat to random strangers that just happen to come from the same country, does it?!

Luckily, as the train pulls away from St Pancras, I remember that I have a book and an iPod and I get up to get them from my case. Then I spot several empty seats a few rows down. I make a swift decision; mumble something to the Irish guy about preferring to sit facing the direction of travel and move seats before he can say anything. I hope he understood. I was very pleased with myself.

- I have never been so happy to see Copenhagen as when I eventually arrived at Kastrup. It was all so familiar. I understood the language and I knew where I was and where I was going.

So, perhaps I need to experience the true foreign-ness of a country that is neither England nor Denmark to really appreciate how at home I am in both countries.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


As I get older, it is even more important to stay in touch with the friends who knew me when I was young.

And I don't mean this in some shallow Facebook way, where some random woman "friend requests" me via Facebook and claims we used to go to school together 25 years ago. We didn't talk to each other or know anything about each other then, so why would we suddenly do that now? All that we have in common is that we shared the same biology teacher in 1984. This is hardly enough to even warrant a quick mention, let alone a lasting re-connection. (Although I have to admit, I am curious to see what you look like and it seems rude to Ignore the request, so I have accepted it....and it seems this is all you wanted to do too, because that is as far as the contact has gone.) (I am obviously too old to really get FB, but that is a different post entirely).

I feel very lucky that I have some very good real-life friends from school and that we have managed to stay in touch with each other (without the miracle of Facebook or even e-mail). These friendships have survived many years, despite differences in geography and life's other complications. We have shared weddings and baby announcements but we never used to see each other very much. Everyone was busy. We lived at opposite ends of the country (or in different countries). We had small children.

Then someone my sister went to school with died. Too young and very suddenly. And she went to the funeral and met up with friends she hadn't seen for years. And I thought "what a sad reason to get together with friends". I didn't want to wait until someone's funeral. And if you would make the effort for a funeral, you’d do it for a happier occasion, surely?

So last year I invited my friends to Copenhagen for no other reason than just to meet up. And obviously we had a good time and this weekend the five of us got together again - for the third time in a year.

They knew me when I was young(er). And they make me feel young. They remind me of who I was before I was a wife and a mother. They make brilliant cocktails and aren't afraid to dance to all the 80s songs. They take me on treasure hunts round the English countryside, will lend me money and, in an emergency, their sofa for the night. And they are brave enough to ride the Big Rollercoaster with me.

I'm already looking forward to GOT4.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Things I would be writing about...

I am 18,654 words, 59 pages, and 203 footnotes into a document and project that has taken up all my available time and then just a bit more time that I didn't actually have.

If I wasn't so busy, I would write about:
  • How stressed I get when I can't quite see how I am going to tackle a job. And I feel very anxious and overwhelmed by the deadline. Once I've made a start on it, it feels more manageable and I realise that I can do it. I sometimes even realise that I am actually quite good at my job. However, despite reminding myself of this fact, the initial doubt and crisis of confidence is always there.
  • Power shopping but not in a good way. In a I-have-to-collect-children -from-school -in-15-minutes-and-I-have-to-buy-new-shoes-or-else-people-will-think-I-am-homeless kind of a panic way.
  • The irony of loving to have new stuff but absolutely hating to shop for myself.
  • Our trip to the zoo, where Sam's most favourite animal experience was not the exotic tiger or polar bear or crocodile, it was not even the monkeys or the penguins. No, it was the cow.
  • GOT3 - volcanic ash be damned, I am flying to Manchester on Friday for the third meet-up with my girlfriends. I am also cramming in a lunch with my mum and dad who are taking a stupidly long and expensive train journey to spend a few hours with their youngest daughter. I Can't Wait.

So that's what I have been doing. And if anyone can tell me why my To Do list always has exactly the same things on it that just won't go away (right now, winter tyres, haircuts, weeding, Dr. appointments, WORK, laundry, cooking, cleaning the floor) despite the fact that I dutifully do these things regularly and yet husband's To Do list is full of things that can be satisfactorily ticked off once and forever (fix garden fence, fix lawn mower and gate, mend Anna's bike) I would be grateful.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Make believe

At the weekend, Samuel drove his little police motorcycle (complete with trailer) around the garden, stopping to collect important bits and pieces as he went.

He drove up to me, took some bark from his trailer and handed it to me:
Sam: Here you are mummy!
Me: Oh, thank you! What is this?
Sam: It's cake Mummy! Eat it!
Me: Oh, lovely, yummmm (proceed to fake-eat the bark)
Sam: You like it?
Me: Oh yes, lovely cake, thank you. Do you have some more? What other cakes do you have in your trailer? (pointing towards the things he has collected)?
Sam: This? (he holds up a stone)
Me: Oooh, yes please.
Sam: (incredulous) Mummy, this is a stone!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Play well

So, we went to LEGOLAND in Billund for the weekend. This was quite a surprise to me since last time we were there I promised myself Never Again.

Aksel and I both used to work for LEGO. Not the park, or the factory, but LEGO Media, which was set up in 1996 to develop new products. It was a fun, strange time in our lives. Me: newly married, learning Danish, just moved to this strange country. Aksel: newly married, back in Denmark after 7 years, and living, as far as he was concerned, in a strange part of the country -Jutland. As someone who grew up in Copenhagen, living near the little town of Billund, in the middle of nowhere, was a big change.

Add to this the fact that both of us had just a few weeks earlier been living in Los Angeles, California, which couldn't have been more different in every way, and the culture shock was complete.

Anyway - two years ago was the 10-year reunion party for our LEGO department. We were both keen to go and meet up with old friends and colleagues, who were travelling from all over the world to be there. Only now we had two children. Perfect, we thought. We couldn't very well go to LEGOLAND without the children, could we?

Samuel was only 6 months old. It would be fine, I thought, with a slight feeling of dread.

Two nights, all four of us in one room?

It was a nightmare. Sam woke up every hour and therefore so did Anna and they both required me to hop around the room at regular intervals throughout the night, both nights. Until they decided they were up for the day at 5 am. This did not leave me inclined to make adult, witty, intelligent, sophisticated, see-what-I-have-been-doing-in-the-last-10-years-type conversations with my old friends and my old boss (who I so wanted to impress) and to actually enjoy a party, which was (is) a rare event.

We all survived, some of us (me) much more cranky about the whole experience than others. As we left, I swore that was the last time we would all try sleeping in one room (or something to that effect).

Which is why it was quite surprising that we recently drove into the same car park and checked into the same family hostel, with the plan of two days in LEGOLAND.

The excitement of the children really helped – they had been singing about going to LEGOLAND for weeks and were so happy when we finally saw the signs and the familiar-looking but completely oversized bricks that indicated we were nearly there. And this time the sleeping experiment went much better. Some black plastic bags taped to the window to shut out the light helped (despite the fact that from the outside it looked like a serial killer was holed up there). Exhausting the now two-year-old in DUPLO-land also helped. Plus the fact that he no longer normally wakes through the night, so once he was asleep in the travel cot in the corner of the room, he was pretty much out for the night. We all went to bed at the same time, but this was much later than normal for the children, so that also helped. And we all woke up at the very reasonable hour of 8.30 am!

Amazing what a difference a year or two can make. Of course, we had the usual terrible Billund weather: lots of rain and wind and it was very cold. But the advantage of this was that there were hardly any queues. LEGOLAND was perfect for Anna and Samuel this year - Sam is just old enough and Anna is not yet too old for it all.

I am very fond of LEGO (what's not to like?) in spite of the fact that I seem to spend many of my waking hours these days trying to cajole children to tidy it up or prevent myself from nasty foot injuries as I gracelessly avoid stepping on it.

I think there is something very special about the original LEGOLAND too, placed in a location no-one would normally select for an amusement park (or, some might say, anything else). It's no longer owned or run by LEGO, which I think is a bit sad. But it still retains much of the old charm that I remember from my own childhood. Funnily enough, unlike my Danish husband, my parents took me to LEGOLAND in 1977, when I was 6, on the way to Esbjerg to take the boat home to Harwich.

Aksel had to wait until he worked there to see it.

But now you can visit LEGOLAND in England, Germany, and USA. Although, I don’t think they have quite have the same atmosphere as the first park that opened in 1968, right next to the factory that created the 58 billion bricks that are used in it.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The one about being your own boss

The advantages are obvious: a pay rise whenever the bank balance allows it and a new fancy made up job title whenever you feel like it. I've been running my own company with my business partner for more than 6 years now, and I like the way that my work fits in with my life, rather than the other way around. I don't rely on too much outside childcare for Samuel and it is great to be able to go into school in the middle of the day to see Anna as a singing penguin (for example).

The disadvantages are also probably obvious: an uncertain income, no-one to pay for your sick days except yourself, and no-one else to blame for incomplete/rubbish work.

The worst part for me is the conflict going on in my head: the conscientious boss versus the lazy worker, constantly slogging it out. The bossy-boss part of me thinks I should sit down and get started on writing for that new project immediately and I should invoice a customer for that completed job, and I should make some calls to existing and potential customers.

The lazy employee thinks she should make a(nother) cup of coffee, check Facebook, read a few blogs, re-check her e-mail, research flights to Manchester, and maybe just Google that guy that someone mentioned from that film that she can't quite remember. All important stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Quite frankly, it's an exhausting war of inner dialogue.

And I haven't even mentioned the will power you need to work at home when you are surrounded by the dirty breakfast dishes, the non-unloaded dishwasher, the unwashed laundry, and the non-picked-up toys. Funnily enough, I do find it fairly easy to ignore these tasks (see Cleaning up) but usually this is in favour of the lazy employee rather than the bossy-boss.

This is what I have found helps to keep both the lazy worker and the boss in check:
- a deadline - even if the customer hasn't imposed one (unlikely) giving myself a deadline for doing something really helps.
- a to do list - sometimes my list includes seeing a singing penguin performance but it helps to give structure to an otherwise no-one-is-watching-what-I-am-doing day. Plus, nothing beats being able to tick things off the list as you do them.
- a break - a proper, walk-away-from-the-screen kind of a break...for me it usually includes eating something, fetching Sammy from nursery, and listening to the radio.
- to not check my e-mails all day/evening long - especially when I am not "officially" in the office, otherwise I can easily get sucked back in to work mode and never feel that I have free time.
- a dedicated space for working. Luckily, now I have a proper home office with a door, just for me. Yes, it gets full of the children's projects too and right now it has the following stuff in it that (believe me) have nothing to do with my job: a doll's pushchair, about 64 LEGO bricks, 3 big magnets, a cowboy hat, various bits of material and sewing, a half-finished knitted monkey, 1 juggling ball, and a multi-coloured wig. Despite this, it is really luxurious for me to be able to leave my laptop and papers on the desk and come back to the work later. I have had many years of my "office" being perched on the edge of the dining table and this is not ideal - especially when you have a toddler who wants nothing more than to get his sticky hands all over your latest 84 page piece.
- Skype and meeting people. If you work at home on your own, it can get rather isolating. Sure, it's great that you can work in your pyjamas and you don't need to wash your hair - but this can get quite horrible after a while (literally) and I find that I miss the whole having to look respectable for company aspect of working in a real office. So, it is quite good to have to meet your customers occasionally and, failing that, it's very good to have a regular Skype meeting with your business partner or some other network - to make sure you can still interact with adults during your working day.

Finally, you have to remember to give yourself a regular performance appraisal. I usually find something along the lines of “juggling working from home, plus children, plus house-wifey stuff, plus all the other things one wants to do is tough and you’re doing a brilliant job, keep up the good work!” is all that is needed. Then I step over the piles of toys, avoid eye-contact with the laundry basket, make myself some coffee and have a quick sneaky peek at Facebook before checking my to-do list.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Blogging for Insomnia

Just recently I have been composing blog posts in my head, at night, when I can't sleep. There are several problems with this; the main one being that it serves absolutely no purpose except to ensure that I get even less sleep than otherwise.

I know, I know, you're going to tell me about the "notepad and pencil" by the side of the bed trick, aren't you? But to be honest, I just can't be bothered. I do just actually want to sleep. To switch off my brain. And it bothers me that it is potential unwritten blog posts that swim around in my head at this annoying hour. It is not as though there aren't 117 million other more important things that I have neglected to do and could be thinking about.

So, in an effort to add a touch of spring cleaning to what is unfortunately becoming a bit of a boring bedtime routine, I thought I would actually try to write some of these posts down, during daylight hours - oh, the cleverness of me, as Peter Pan would say. And then I can go back to thinking about winter tyres, and hair appointments, and how the children need new shoes.

So, new (possibly sleep inducing) posts coming soon.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sountrack in my head

Apparently, when you are running and your mind starts wandering off onto other things rather than just concentrating on the next step and the next breath, you have reached a certain level of running fitness. Or so my good friend Emma tells me. And I believe her because she is a very experienced and super fit runner.

My other source of running advice, Tina, told me that she runs with a friend and they chat the whole time. Apart from being completely in awe of being able to talk while running - a skill that despite my ability to multi-task in almost all other areas of my life is definitely beyond my fitness level - I don't think this is for me because I quite like the way that running alone allows you to completely escape from everyone else.

Except, of course, yourself.

My brain has definitely started to wander off as I run. And the 50 songs I have on shuffle on my playlist in my ears helps to trick my body into running a little faster and to not think so much about how much further there is to go. It offers a soundtrack to 30 minutes of my life.

Things I think about while running:

-Imaginary conversations I would have with Tina if I was running with her (and by some miracle I could actually talk and run). We chat about old boyfriends and that time that we almost but not quite met up with Nicki on a beach in Italy. And then we move on to my lovely Godson and his fondness for books and what wonderful letters he writes to me. I ask her advice about my lollipop lady running outfit and she assures me I look great.

- When Let's Hear it For the Boy comes on I'm 15 years old again and Rachel and I have free tickets to the cinema to see Footloose (thanks to my mum who won them in a radio competition).

-And when Des attractions désastre by Ettienne Daho plays I am in a café in Paris imagining what this French guy is saying to me. I have no idea what the lyrics of this song are about but in my head he is talking directly to me and telling me how wonderfully I am running.

-The Obvious Child by Paul Simon makes me think of Samuel dancing around the kitchen playing his drums... Of course, my version is "we had a little son and we thought we'd call him Sammy…."

- Ramblin'man by Lemon Jelly and I am trying to count how many places he mentions in the song that I have been to. I love the way he says "Kentish Town" and makes it sound like somewhere exotic.

By now I’m hopefully more than half way. Sometimes I imagine that tough American woman from the TV programme The Biggest Loser is shouting at me to keep going and pick up the speed. I just need a few more good running songs to transport me away. Something like Ready to Run by the Dixie Chicks and Glor på Vinduer by Szhirley.

To finish off, it has to be noisy and if I'm lucky I'll get a bit of Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance and Rock Star by Nickelback to get me up the final hill.

And then I'm home.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


Oh alright then already! Anything is better than all that talk about wee at the top, I suppose.

-Not much running going on at the moment. The dismal weather (ice, ice, snow, ice) and a stinking cold coupled with a trip to Blighty have knocked my running mojo.

In fact, the only Winter Olympics going on around here is in the telly - unless I can count the frantic exercise each morning to dress two children in suitable survival suits and boots so that they can navigate the garden path that has turned into an icy slalom run. After three months of nothing but snow, I'm getting quite good at it. I'd definitely give myself a bronze medal.

And I'm sure Anna would be ready to try that skeleton bob run thing at a moment’s notice. (Yeah, like we'd let in her try that! Diving head first down an ice chute at 100 mph plus speeds with little more than a swimming costume and a baking tray? Er, I think not.)

- Samuel does this thing where he deliberately gets you to say something and then promptly laughs at how wrong you are and then corrects you. For example:
Sam - I've got sticky hands! Honey! (holding up his hands)
Me - Oh, do you have honey on your hands?
Sam - No! (laughing at how unbelievably silly mummy is) Not honey! JAM!!
And numerous other similar examples.

- Anna is happy that they've started doing plays at school with the grade 3 children. She is currently playing Phyllis in The Railway Children and for the first time in ages came home very excited about it all.

She is also on to a more interesting Unit of Inquiry about animals and spent ages today telling me all sorts of facts about frogs and spiders and turtles. Or rather, she'd ask me some tricky question and then I'd admit that I didn't know and that I'd love to hear the answer. But then she'd make me guess the answer. Which was pretty impossible because it wasn't "guess-able" sort of stuff. So she made me make all sorts of weird (stupid) suggestions before she enlightened me with the correct answer.

Actually - there is a theme to this post after all: Both my children obviously delight at seeing me get the answer wrong and then being able to correct me.

Well, I'm not quite as stupid as they think. I tricked both of them into washing their hair tonight during a particularly splashy bath and they thought it was all their own idea. Ha!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Bathroom, briefly

I often tell Sam that his food is too hot - wait a minute, blow on it! - so he doesn't dive in and burn his mouth.

Tonight as he was having his pre-bath wee, he managed to wee a bit on his hand.

Warm mummy! he remarked as he felt the temperature of the yellow liquid.

Then he said, Sam blow on it as he attempted to blow on his own wee - while still weeing.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

About that running...

I just need to put in writing that I am now running 5 km every second day in about 30 minutes.

Never mind the fact that I look like a homeless person crossed with a lollipop lady in my cobbled together outfit, which is the result of the need for lots of layers (minus 5 degrees here still) and visibility and my lack of money to buy fancy running trousers. (If I am honest, I also don't want to go into a proper shop and buy appropriate attire for fear of being pointed at by the fit, young sales assistant as an imposter -"Call yourself a runner? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!").

No, this doesn’t matter because in the unlikely event that I saw anyone I knew while doing this running I would a) pretend to not recognise them and b) they would not recognise me anyway.

The first kilometre is still really, really tough. Someone said that I should "listen to my body" when it comes to exercise. But if I did this, I would not run at all because when I start running my body is screaming very loudly STOP! NOW! REST! What is this NONSENSE?!

But if I ignore the screaming and keep putting one foot in front of the other something fantastic happens. I start getting into some kind of rhythm, and suddenly my gasping for breath becomes more regular and I start to concentrate on the world around me. And for those 30 minutes, I am able to shut out everything else and just see the snow and the sky and the tarmac.

And with the brilliant addition of a running playlist beating in my ears, I find that I am able to conquer that last "killer hill" (thanks Tina) at a reasonable pace and make it home - sweaty, out of breath and tired, but exhilarated, extremely pleased with myself, and happy too.

If I keep it up for a few more weeks, I might just brave that sports shop and treat myself to something with “go faster” stripes on it.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

New baby

You know you should be worried when people start calling your husband to offer him congratulations.

After literally months of hearing non-stop about the pros and cons of this camera vs. that camera, ISO whatchamacall-its, full frame vs. cropped sensor and other blah de blah, Aksel finally went and bought a new one - a 5D Mark ll..... with lenses.

The man in the shop subtly won him over by mentioning that this was the one that "professionals" buy.

And now I am a camera widow. Left alone while he learns all the new possibilities that his new baby offers him.

The up side is that Aksel takes really good pictures. And now (so I am told) with this new desirable they are going to be even better. I am particularly interested in the new portrait lens that promises to smooth out the wrinkles and take off 5 lbs and 10 years ( I'm sure that's what he said, I mean at those prices it must perform some magic, mustn't it?).

I also inherit his "old" camera, which I need to learn how to use, but this is much more likely now that I am allowed to get my hands on it.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Things I learnt over Christmas

Today was the first day since December 16th that I have been alone in the house. We've had a really great Christmas and New Year - in stark contrast to several previous years that have been full of illness and loss and terrible news. Aksel and I had almost become accustomed to plans being dramatically and disastrously cancelled around December and January due to emergency hospital visits and other such fun stuff. But even as I kept half expecting for the fever to hit or the -itus to develop, it just didn't.

I almost don't want to mention how calm and beautifully bright it all was for fear of jinxing myself for the rest of January. But, it really was.

A couple of near-disasters that turned out ok in the end:
  • The Tree - we totally overestimated the size of the living room, the strength of two adults (one of which was encumbered with a very cold two-year-old), and the size of the sledge, and we underestimated the effort required to chop down our own 60 kg, 6.5 ft evergreen in the forest and drag it back to our house. What started as a romantic idea of getting our own tree in the snow nearly turned into a scene from the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation. At one point, Aksel and I were both ready to give up and let the "grown-ups" sort it out. After much crying and mopping up of snow and reluctantly admitting that we were the grown-ups, we did manage to get a really beautiful (big) Christmas tree this year that everyone enjoyed dancing around in true Danish style.
  • The Snow - my parents' flight on the 23rd December was cancelled. We panicked. I cried. I thought of all the food that no-one was going to eat. And then I managed to book them on a much later flight from a different airport. So they got here after all. And everyone sighed in relief (not least my sister and brother-in-law who thought they might have two extra unexpected guests for Christmas!)

And things I learnt:

  • Samuel's optimal number of adults in the house at any one time is about 5. This pretty much satisfies his need for attention and activity. Throw in a few older children as a bonus and he is very happy. Little social satellite he is.

  • Anna can devour books, especially if she is allowed to sit around in her pyjamas all day. Next year: buy her more books.

  • Samuel can sleep in his cot in the day - who knew!?

  • My cleaning mojo is dramatically increased by the amount of guest activity over the Christmas period. In fact, inviting people round generally is a very good incentive for the Little and Often method.

  • Ditto having a large Christmas tree in the living room resulting in pine needles in places where pine needles should never go.

  • I can make meringues.

  • I can almost make sushi.

  • I can make a very good chocolate fondant thingy.

  • And mince pies!

  • And I can run - Aksel and I have been encouraging each other to go for a run. And it is working. Despite freezing temperatures, snow, and darkness and the requirement for wearing a luminous (very fetching) yellow vest and numerous diode lights.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Giffer is coming

I have to admit that I actually don't like other people's kids (OPKs) very much. With a few exceptions, of course. This was not the case before I had my own children. Before I became a mother, I was happy to babysit and play with little kids and generally thought they were ok most of the time....

But then I had my own, and other children just seemed to pale into insignificance compared to the shining light and radiance and pure special snowflake-ness of my own offspring. To be brutally honest, OPKs annoy me, sometimes disturb me and usually tire me out (still with those exceptions - if you are reading this and I know your children, I obviously am talking about other-other people's kids, ok?). I think it is because you can't quite treat them in the same way as your own children - you have to be nice.

Um, that didn't come out right!

Anyway, I think before I am lynched for being mean about children 10 days before Christmas, I'll just say that the reason for this long pre-amble is to warn that the rest of this post is about my super special snowflake and his words. And although to me this is the most interesting and cute thing in the universe, I can totally get that it is just not so much to most other people.

(I amuse myself here because I am writing as though I have a readership of more than 2. And one of those is Grandma and I know she'll be interested. But, anyway!)

Here are some of the delicious things that Samuel is saying these days. He talks All.The.Time. A very loud running commentary about everything in his world as he sees it.

He says Giffer instead of Christmas - so he talks about the Giffer Man coming and Giffer Trees and Giffer lights.

He says Uncle Mushroom instead of Uncle Matthew.

He says Side Up Down instead of upside down.

He calls his sister Nanna Nessa instead of Anna Vanessa.

Grapes are Googlie goos

Olives are Ollies

Yoghurt is Ogg-Oh

And on and on. He is putting words together (Sam sit down there; Look mummy - man! Big Man! Funny!) and will confidently switch from English to Danish to talk to people he knows speak Danish. He will say "Se Farmor, hund!" and then turn to me and say "Look Mummy, dog!" He can name blue and green.
And he is just funny. He'll do a fake fall and then lie on the floor and say "Oh No! Fall Down! Sammy sad!" In the morning he'll say "Good......Morning Mummy" And he will often un-prompted thank you if you give him something, although he always says the Danish tak rather than thank you.

Anna showed him that when she pushed her tummy button she turned into a train with Whoo! whoo! sounds and train movements. He fully expects everybody's navel to have this same special skill.

It's all so innocent and brilliant to witness.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wrapping up

Apparently "writing is the new praying". If this is true then "Bless me Father, for I have sinned - it's been a very long time since I wrote anything."

The "little and often" approach is obviously not my strength and certainly cannot be applied to my blogging skills. The "a lot and often" method, however, can definitely be applied to my shopping behaviour in December.

We have been busy:

  • All 4 of us have celebrated a birthday in the last 7 days (we needed 90 candles on cakes). This is not the best planning - Aksel and I have a birthday on the same day and we have children with exactly 6 years and 4 hours between them - at least they get their own day, but one after the other....

  • Anna had a party with all her class here - a cinema party no less. We had 18 eight year olds in the living room - 16 of them boys. Yes, it took me a while to recover and No, we are not doing it again next year.

  • I baked bread rolls for Sam's birthday treat at nursery - they are not allowed cakes there. This did not faze Samuel at all - he was getting lots of cake at home. This is what he has said pretty much every day in December: Birthday mummy? Cake mummy? Candles? Hurrah! Sam too!

  • We've been to England - the birthday party with my 11 year old niece was excellent. The surprise 40th birthday party for an old university friend of Aksel's? Not so much. (I really don't get surprise birthday parties - don't do one for me, ok? I'd rather be prepared. Plus, I don't like socially awkward situations and combining my in-laws and my crazy aunt with the friends I haven't seen for 5 years is not the best evening that I have in mind.)

I found my Christmas spirit too, along with the box of decorations. These two also helped:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Cleaning up

I've been back from London for ages but had lots of catching up to do - sleep, work, costumes for Christmas performances, more work, laundry, cleaning.

Cleaning is a bit of an emotional topic.

Although Aksel would quite like to be transported back to the 1960s Mad Men style home, where I fixed him a drink the moment he came home from work and his most taxing domestic duty might be to change a fuse, he actually does not believe it is all my responsibility to clean and is fairly willing to do his share.

The problem is that we just don't agree on when things need cleaning and on the level of dirt that is acceptable before a mop needs to be picked up.

A quick quiz of my girlfriends and I understand that this is a normal phenomenon. Apparently, men are just able to live with a lot more dirt and mess than women. Except for one of my friends who is married to an anal type, bordering on OCD. She moans about her husband's need to clean each individual tile to perfection in the bathroom, while I am actually wondering if I could borrow him for a while.

And while my girlfriends are sympathising with me and agreeing, they don't seem to have messy homes. How do they do it? If I am at someone's house and it is really clean and tidy, I admire their home and organizational skills. I wonder if they were rushing around to clean before I arrived or whether it always looks like this. And if I am in a slightly less clean, bit untidy house I will secretly feel a bit relieved and pleased. The thing is, although I like to think that I am not judging people by the tidiness of their house, I think that people are definitely judging me by the tidiness of mine.

A former colleague once admitted to me she used the Black-Plastic-Bin-Bag-Method to clean up. This is a mad dash round the house with a sack 15 minutes before guests are about to arrive.
I don't do this, but I am a big fan of the closely related Boot-of-the-Car-Method. This is used when you are trying to sell your house and have people coming round to see it Any. Minute. Now. You need to disappear the laundry basket, the mountain of toys in the living room, the pile of coats and boots in the porch and any other evidence that your home might lack storage space or the extra bedroom your potential buyers are looking for.

I know other people who have perfected the Little-and-Often-Method. This is probably my parents and other sensible people. Their homes always look ok and they are never worried to welcome unexpected guests. The mess never gets the better of them and they are basically on top of it. I wish I was in this category. Why I didn't inherit some proper cleaning gene I don't know.

But I think I am, unfortunately, in the All-or-Nothing-Method, which is just such a shame. I don't do anything unless I can do it properly, so I don't even start the cleaning unless I can complete the entire blitz of the vacuuming, mopping, dusting, re-arranging, re-cycling, polishing, and sanitizing in one go. And as I rarely (never) have 10 hours of uninterrupted time that I need to devote to cleaning, you can imagine how often this happens. My home looks extremely brilliant and clean and wonderful for about 1 hour every two months and then slowly declines into disarray until I am stepping over piles of stuff and eventually, after much huffing and puffing, the whole process starts again.

I would like to be the sort of domestic whirlwind that can transform the post-weekend debris and chaos into a hygienic and tidy place to be with just a few swiffs of the swiffer in the available 20 minutes. Because I do like Tidy. In fact, I thrive in Tidy and am a nicer person to be around. The mess is just stressful and annoying and makes me grumpy.

So this week I am changing my category. From now on I will be a Little-and-Often Goddess.

Failing that, I have a big pile of black bin bags.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's all London baby!

I'm off to London tomorrow for Girls on tour 2. For details of GOT1, you can look here.

For some idea of what I'll be doing in London, you can look here (Gasp! I know! A guest blog post! Me! Feeling very honoured by the whole thing.)

In the meantime, I am busy packing and writing Aksel operating instructions for everything.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It is not easy but it is simple

Aksel and I used to comment on how easy Anna was as a baby and toddler. At the time, with nothing much to compare it to, we didn't fully appreciate the lack of tantrums. But we were rather smug and self-congratulatory about our great parenting skills.

This was until our son turned up and reminded us that nature might just play a bigger part than nurture and it's all just half-chance anyway.

Samuel really is a buddle of intense loving fury. He is at that stage where he literally thinks the world revolves around him. Right now everything in the universe is Mine! But I know that this is just "that phase" and it will pass. And besides being loving and consistent and trying to pre-empt obvious battles, there is really not much you can do to help your toddler acquire the life skills to function in the world. Or rather, you know the things you want them to learn (take turns, share, don't hit, say please, say thank you, say sorry, play nicely, don't throw that etc etc) and you can teach these things at appropriate intervals and hope for the best. It is not easy – but it is fairly uncomplicated.

The world of the nearly 8-year-old, on the other hand, I am finding much more complex. Right now with Anna we are navigating through topics such as racism, bullying, sex, war, poverty, death, disease and religion. And we are also trying to teach her about the ebb and flow of friendships, about taking responsibility, and about tidying up.

And as we find our way through these things, her shift in mood from elated to hysterical in 0.2 seconds has me floored.

I am finding this all so much more complicated than teaching an ego-centric toddler to share. The parenting “stuff” that worked wonderfully a couple of years ago just doesn’t seem to fit. So my once “easy” daughter is not so much these days and my “difficult” son is somehow much more straightforward. The things Samuel needs are easy and obvious to provide: Nappies, food, love.

Of course, food and love are just as important to Anna. And she’s really easy to love. But meeting her other needs – her need for independence and to make her own mistakes and for privacy or attention – these are harder to work out. Finding the right moment to offer a hug or a compliment and working out when to be stricter and which rules I’m going to insist on and where I’m going to draw the line can leave me spinning. And if I’m confused – imagine how she must be feeling.

We’d better hurry up and get it sorted out. It’s lucky we have a good few years before she is a teenager, because then, so I am told, you’d better know exactly what your boundaries and perspectives are.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remember, remember

I have been told that it is November 5th and this means bonfire night, guy fawkes, gun powder, treason and plot. And most importantly fireworks. Sadly, we are not having any of these over here.

Fireworks are impossible to buy at this time of year - some sort of regulation thing. Which is kind of ironic when you see what the Danes are allowed to do with fireworks in their own back-garden on New Year's Eve. As far as I can tell, no regulations whatsoever. Until you have seen your neighbour cheerfully lug a great big Rocket and launcher past your garden fence and witnessed the bombardment of fire that is truly spectacular at midnight on 31st December, you won't really understand what I mean. Every year I think it is amazing that more homes aren't totally burnt down by slightly mis-directed rockets.

Anyway. I used to love November 5th as a child. I remember cold nights up the rec watching the village display and the guy burning on the fire. And baked potatoes eaten in the back garden with sparklers for company.

And I remember writing a song with a few other children and the music teacher at my junior school. It was part of a school competition to do with fire safety.

At this time of year (and around New Year's Eve, funnily enough) I can sometimes be heard singing it to my children:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The firework code:

Stand well back when you light your jumping jack!
Remember the firework code.

And if you have a dog or cat
Well just remember that
They should stay indoors!

And if you have a rocket
Don't put it in your pocket
Remember the firework code!

And on and on and on for several more verses I think. Luckily, I don't remember it all.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

All the homes... No. 3

In my second and third year at university I rented a really dirty house in SE London with 4 others. The house had the type of grime that only years of non-cleaning and student neglect and apathy can inflict. I am sure I would be shocked to see the squalid conditions now, but I didn't mind so much then.

The "garden" was so overgrown that we literally could not open the backdoor. Until one day the landlord came round with a scythe and hacked away for a couple of hours - then we could sort of sit out there on nasty plastic chairs. But it also meant that the families of mice that had been previously making their nests in all that long grass were suddenly homeless. And they didn't waste any time calling squatter's rights in our kitchen. Maybe that's where my love of mice comes from. I remember having to stomp around loudly in the living room before entering the kitchen so that I would scare the little creatures away from the bread.

The house was very close to the train station and after a night out it took about 40 seconds to make it home in a quick sprint, dodging the drug pushers on the corner.

To start with, I shared with girlfriends who were all doing language degrees. This was a mistake as in my third year they all buggered off to Paris and Cologne and left me there all billy-no-mates to do my finals. My fellow psychology friend Rob moved in. He was really cool but brought along his neurotic, annoying Norwegian girlfriend and her (also Norwegian) friend (who turned out to be really nice and I still see in Copenhagen occasionally). We rented the final room to random-bloke-Paul, who liked to borrow my Calvin & Hobbes books, was an anarchist and sometimes received dodgy substances in the post (cleverly addressed to Mr M. Mouse, presumably to confuse the narcotics authorities).

I had one of the better rooms, downstairs with french doors (again). I remember sitting for many hours there, tapping away on my little Apple Macintosh that I got for my 21st birthday. It was an awful student house and a great couple of years.

Friday, 16 October 2009

In Bed and Happily Zombie Free

So, Halloween is coming...

The rather fantastic Nicola at micro-chasms wrote a post a while back about a game she played with her husband: Happy (and) in Bed?

The version that Aksel and I play is a bit more weird and has more elements of zombies, but essentially it is a similar idea. It started 12 years ago when we lived in Jutland. In the middle of nowhere. A little way down the road was a deserted (haunted), derelict (possessed) house.

On cold, stormy, very dark nights, while we lay all cosy in bed, we would ask each other: How much money would you need to.... and then the question would end with variations on the theme of getting up, (possibly) getting dressed, going to the creepy house and spending the night there (often in the basement), usually without a torch.

Although the question was obviously hypothetical, the rule is that you have to answer as though the money is on the table - yours for the taking.

Aksel is quite a lot cheaper than me and I definitely value my nightmare-free sleep more than him. He'd normally do it for 50,000 DKK whereas I would sometimes need that much just to get out of bed.

Years later, we moved to suburbia north of Copenhagen, in a cul-de-sac of tightly packed neighbours where everyone knew everyone else's business but pretended not to. The game changed a little.

There were no haunted houses in the vicinity. But if the Scandinavians actually used net curtains, they definitely would have been twitching. So the question was along the lines of How much money do you need to get out of bed right now, hop around naked to the neighbours and ask to borrow sugar? Extra money was awarded if you called upon the slightly freaky Ned Flanders-type family. Again, I valued my dignity and continued ability to live amongst these people slightly more than Aksel, who argued that they didn't speak to us anyway, so it wouldn't make much difference.

Since moving again this year, we are in the position to add the Zombie element to the question. There is a small building a little way down our street, full of nothing else but freezers, buzzing away. We think it is a left over from the days before folk had their own freezers, but a more plausible explanation is that it houses a dozen frozen zombies. All waiting to come and frighten us the day the power fails, eat our food (or us), and watch our telly.

Now Aksel, who has been known to read How to Survive a Zombie Attack guides, has got quite good at freaking himself out with this little story. And when the question comes up How much money do you need to go and spend the night in the zombie house... I am normally pretty willing to go for not so much, considering the inconvenience. Whereas on particularly dark nights Aksel can refuse all monetary compensation whatsoever.

Have you seen how fast those things can move? he asks.